Monday, April 07, 2008

Fair Trade and Other Standards

The Fair Trade symbol and certification has become synonymous with coffee in the last few years. This certification represents how market ideas can become effective regulators of products. Fair trade coffee certification allows consumers to vote with their wallet and support producers by being relatively certain about the production standards. Fair trade doesn't certify the environmental aspect of the product but usually the food products are produced in a sustainable way. The Forest Stewardship Council has come with a certification for wood products that are harvested from forests managed in accordance with their principles and they conduct audits to ensure the producers adhere to it. Other certifications for seafood, renewable energy, organic food etc also exist.

These independent certifications accomplish one thing that government regulation usually cannot. They become a "brand" unto themselves that consumers look for when shopping. Sometimes it is cheaper to pay the fines associated with government regulations or when the regulations are being made they get watered down by lobbyists. Independent certifications can come in and set high standards that can impact sales and profits. Unfortunately, business only understands the language of dollars and cents and this seems to be the best tool available to have them be more sensitive to other needs in this world.

For more info watch the documentary Buyer Be Fair or check out their website.

No comments: