Last year The Fairtrade Foundation celebrated two decades of achievement no-one could have envisaged when the first few Fairtrade certified products started going on sale in the UK in 1994. Throughout UK and around the world consumers are now aware of the farmers who produce their favourite foods, and in 2012 alone farmers received 80m Euros of Fairtrade Premium to invest in their families, farms and businesses. Awareness of the Mark is at 77% and total Fairtrade sales in UK are now close on £2bn – an extraordinary achievement in which Divine has been very proud to play its part. The introduction of the Fairtrade Sourcing Programme moves Fairtrade away from the aims and principles that first inspired all these millions of consumers to change their shopping habits.
The principles that drove some amazing people and companies to tackle the retail world head on and get these products on shelf, and all those millions who chose to buy them, are the same principles that Divine is still committed to today.
Divine is inspired and driven by the vision that we can:
- remunerate farmers fairly and sustainably for the produce they grow and sell
- encourage farmers to organise themselves in groups to enhance their own power in the supply chain, and to share resources, learning and finance
- empower those farmers to make their own investment and development decisions
- guarantee long term relationships and help with pre-finance
- enable farmers to enhance their farming skills and education, including more opportunities for women to become economically independent and take responsible positions in their community
- protect children and enhance their future opportunities with education
- help create pride in farming and their product, and a reason for future generations to keep farming and improving their quality, yield and income
- ensure traceability from bean to bar so that all the above can be audited, and the farmers can build their reputation for a high quality product
For this proposition to be credible, traceability is key. As consumers are becoming increasingly aware of ethical claims and expecting responsible sourcing by companies, traceability is a way they can be sure those farmers who contributed to the product they purchase are those same farmers who are benefiting, empowered, investing in their farms and their communities, and in turn can be recognised for the excellent quality product they are supplying.
In the chocolate market Divine, which offers a 100% Fairtrade Certified product range including as many Fairtrade ingredients as possible, has succeeded not only in achieving all the aims above, but has also raised the bar by proving a traceable, farmer-owned business model can work. The new Fairtrade Sourcing Programme by contrast introduces a different “level” of Fairtrade that allows composite chocolate products (ie products made of a mix of ingredients) to have only one Fairtrade ingredient (where other ingredients could be sourced Fairtrade) and where that certified ingredient may be minimal. There is no requirement for traceability between ingredient source and product creating a disconnect between consumer and farmer, and with combined composite products (a chocolate covered caramel biscuit for example) it would be possible to have certified products with surprisingly low percentages of the certified ingredient, with no incentive to increase that percentage. It also raises a big question mark over sugar (which in many products will be a much larger percentage of the whole) which can remain uncertified, leaving thousands of sugar farmers without the benefit of a Fairtrade deal.
No other product certification mark has as much awareness and understanding as the Fairtrade Mark in the UK – that is an extraordinary achievement in itself. Introducing the FSP Mark, which is clearly related but represents something different, risks diluting a very single-minded proposition, and ultimately eroding that clarity that was so hard won.
In the 20th year of the Fairtrade Mark, and the 20th year of the Kuapa Kokoo farmers’ cooperative that owns us and supplies all the cocoa for Divine Chocolate, consumer awareness of product provenance and desire for more credible and genuine claims about sourcing has never been higher. Divine looks forward to satisfying that appetite for change and continuing to promote what Fairtrade really can achieve, and our vision of the world it can still help create.