Fair Trade Verification

Third-party certifiers and membership-based organizations ensure that standards are met, often using a seal or a stamp of approval on product packaging. The Canadian Fair Trade Network currently recognizes the following certifiers and/or membership-based organizations: Fairtrade International, the Small Producers’ Symbol, the World Fair Trade Organization, and the Fair Trade Federation

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Two types of fair trade verification

Product verification certifies specific products that have been produced, traded, processed, and packaged in accordance with a prescribed set of standards.

Membership-based verification evaluates companies and organizations based on their overall commitment and practices to a set of fair trade principles.

What to look for in fair trade verification

While a number of verification systems exist, it's important they meet a high standard that guarantees an ongoing commitment to positive impacts. Fortunately, the verification systems that are the most reliable are also some of the most recognized and widely available.

Verification and auditing

Verification should represent standards established by a third party that does not represent specific business or company interests.

Verification standards should be accredited by a global standard-setting organization such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or best-practices member organizations such as the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling (ISEAL).

The verification process should be administered by a third-party organization, operating independent from any for-profit interests. There should be clear distinctions as to the frequency and reliability of audits.

Accountability

Producers and other industry stakeholders should have input into the development of standards and verification strategies. 

Transparency

Verification systems and the process for developing standards should be transparent. They should allow for product traceability, which allows consumers to trace products back through supply chains.

Scope/growth potential

Verification systems should have enough market coverage and growth potential to be visible on a wide-enough scale to be recognized by a large number of consumers.

Standards

Verification systems should have clear requirements that relate to the following:

Terms of trade

  • require minimum price guarantees for producers to cover the cost of sustainable production
  • encourage buyers to pay in advance for products in the form of a pre-harvest credit when requested from producers
  • offer premiums, paid in addition to commodity price, that goes to supporting various social, environmental, and economic development

Trade relations

  • encourage long-term trade relationships based on dialogue, trust, and mutual respect
  • encourage contracts that allow for long-term planning and sustainable production practices
  • encourage direct relationships between smallholder groups, farmer organizations, contracting companies, and individual farmers to avoid inflating costs through intermediary traders

Labour issues

  • meet requirements for international conventions on labour standards
  • prohibit child labour with respect to international legislation on the employment of children and with consideration of local laws and customs

Environmental commitment

  • support sustainable environmental practices by rewarding initiatives such as:
    • integrated farm management that minimizes pollutants, pesticides, and herbicides
    • organic farming techniques
    • bans on dangerous pesticides
    • safeguarding of natural resources

Further development

  • create opportunities for disadvantaged producers
  • invest in capacity building that improves knowledge and skill of producers
  • promote gender equality to ensure women’s work is properly valued and equally rewarded