25 years of Fairtrade certification

Fairtrade innovator Max Havelaar will mark its 25th birthday this month with an event in Utrecht looking at how the movement is affecting positive change in farming communities around the world. Executive Director of the Max Havelaar Foundation, Peter d'Angremond,
will present the first-ever carbon-neutral coffee at the event in the hope that it will help coffee farmers combat climate change. While the principles of the fairtrade movement had existed in different forms for some decades, the creation of the Max Havelaar brand in 1988 marked the birth of a fairtrade certification system and the movement’s first foray into the mainstream. “Twenty-five years ago the principled pragmatism of Dutch founders, together with the vision of the Mexican coffee farmers put a mark on a product to ensure the consumer knew the farmers were receiving a fair price,” said Molly Harriss Olsen, Chair of Fairtrade International, in a statement. “We should pay credit to the genius of the simplicity of their idea and that they had the guts to go and do it when people said it wouldn’t work; that the public didn’t care. They have proved the optimists right.” From those first sales of coffee from Mexico, the Fairtrade label can now be found on more than 30,000 products, including tea, bananas, sugar and chocolate. Its benefits reach more than 1.35 million farmers and workers around the world.  Over the past 25 years, the Fairtrade Mark has become the most recognized ethical mark in the world, with almost $6.5 billion in annual sales. But for all of this success, fairly traded goods still represent less than one percent of global trade in most products. Fairtrade International intends to boost its impact for poor farmers and workers with its new three-year strategic framework, ‘Unlocking the Power of the Many’. “Changing trade is the challenge of the century, so we need big bold ambitions coupled with a willingness to move forward just one step at a time,” said Chief Executive of Fairtrade International Harriet Lamb, in a statement. “The key is getting all of the players around the table, farmers and traders, companies and workers jointly pursuing a better way of doing things – with the public playing their part. “It’s an uncomfortable truth that for poor farmers and workers in supply chains, including Fairtrade supply chains, to earn a living wage, we must be prepared to pay more for goods such as tea and bananas. It’s one of Fairtrade’s radically conservative propositions: a little less profit at one end of the supply chain can mean a lot more dignity for people at the other. The time to rebalance the scales is long overdue so we have to pick up the pace of change.”

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