Greenwash Of The Week: Fair Trade Certification?


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The following is a post by Erin Ely of Ely Organics. You can read more from her on her website or follow her on Twitter.

Every year October is Fair Trade month. I support Fair Trade and have known about the fair trade movement for many years.If you don’t know about Fair Trade here is a bit of information to get you started:

From TransFairUSA:

Fair Trade Certification empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

Fair Trade is much more than a fair price! Fair Trade principles include: Fair price, Fair labor conditions, Direct Trade, Democratic and transparent organizations, Community development, and Environmental sustainability.

I applaud the fair trade movement and I am all in favor of what they are doing. When I happened upon the TransFairUSA site at the beginning of October to see what they had going on for this year’s fair trade month I was taken aback by the promotion of one of their newest and latest Fair Trade products they were highlighting — their new partnership with mark.

mark is the beauty and fashion boutique brand of Avon Products. On the TransFair website they announced their partnership with mark in this way: “We are so excited to tell you about our partnership with mark, the beauty and fashion boutique brand of Avon Products, which has resulted in the new “Body Care That Cares” line. With this body care line, mark leads the charge to bring beauty products that contain Fair Trade Certified ingredients to the U.S. personal care market.”

This definitely peaked my interested so I decided to take a look at the “Body Care That Cares” line just to find out what they were made of. There are 7 products in the Avon/Mark Body Care That Cares line including a body cleanser, a body creme, body lotion with SPF 15, balm, Scent Booster, Conditioning Bath Soaps. I looked at all the ingredients lists but wanted to just display one product here so you can understand why I’m perplexed about this new Fair Trade certified product line.

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  1. I myself am not sure how meaningful it is now. Once I have to do homework on a product to make sure that a certification is real and not just on 5% of the ingredients, that certification kind of fails to have any meaning.

  2. Ok I have, I guess, been naive about the fair trade certification. I had thought it was the whole product, whatever it is or contains, was fairly traded. I understand that the certificate doesn’t mean it’s safe nor healthy.

    I think that the partnership is misleading based on your facts.

    But I wouldn’t put this in the category of green washing. To me green washing is about Green products not fairly traded products. I don’t think the Body Care product claims to be green.

    I don’t buy fair trade products if they are not also certified by environmental certifications as well. For example I can not find sugar that has both fair trade certificate on it and the Organic Certificate. So I purchase just the Organic one because of health and environmental issues. I would love to see product that have fair trade and environment certificates.

  3. I don’t necessarily associate fair trade with healthy, safe, or green: to me, it just means that the farmers were paid fairly for their labor. Do I think this one deserved fair trade certification? Nope. But it’s not something that would be a major selling point to me in a cosmetic unless the ingredients met my safety standards. Not ideal, but I wouldn’t consider it a total greenwash, either.

    I overheard some of your Twitter conversation with Fair Trade USA, and I think it’s worth pointing out that certification for whole foods like coffee, rice, or sugar remains meaningful.

  4. I agree with you David… Why should we be doing all the homework… Why can’t corporations just be honest with their products and certifications be meaningful? If I see the Fair Trade certificate on the product I expect that the whole product to have been fairly traded not just a percent here and there.

  5. WE do our homework when we shop, but most people don’t and they will buy something that appears environmentally friendly to soothe their conscience. Avon is smart in wanting to get on this bandwagon, because at 5%, it’s not that burdensome to the company, yet it’s oodles of great marketing in return. I think that Fair Trade is relevant and important, but just like the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy selling their good names to the highest bidder, TransFairUSA is no better. This IS greenwashing.

  6. I am disgusted by this. PUKE. 2-5% has to be Fair Trade..that’s it?

    Now i know why the TransFairUSA Fair Trade logo is on everything lately.

    TransFairUSA, like every other certification, is a business. The weaker the criteria to getting certified the faster they grow and the more money they collect.

    It’s not greenwashing per se but it is dishonest since they’re misleading the public. All you bloggers out there….time to tank TransFairUSA. REVOLT

  7. I find this interesting since I am trying to get my new food product certified with Fair trade and they are asking every ingredient I use to be fair trade not just organic everything like I am also using. So whether the other artificial ingredients on this Avon product can’t be fair trade because they aren’t really comes down to giving the certifying body it’s $ and maybe help a fair trade practice in whatever ingredient used etc. But it does make the whole cerfication of fair trade look phoney. Too bad=(

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