A GOVERNMENT-funded research project has called into question
the effectiveness of Fairtrade certification in raising the living
standards of the world's producers.
The four-year Fair Trade, Employment and Poverty Reduction
Project, by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at
the University of London, was funded by the Department for
International Development (DfID). It found that workers in
Fairtrade certified farms were paid less than those working for
non-Fairtrade certified producers. It also found cases of child
labour and the sexual harassment of workers.
The report's authors blame the Fairtrade movement's emphasis on
producers rather than workers, and say that the organisation is
unintentionally promoting "a class of emerging rural
They say: "The reasons for Fairtrade's failure to make a clear
positive difference to wages and conditions, or to the amount of
work offered, are fairly clear. They have to do . . . with what
this research suggests has been in the past a wilful denial of the
significance of wage labour and an obsessive concentration on
producers/employers and their organisations.
"This research suggests that a large number of obstacles remain
in implementing improved standards in a way that will benefit rural
workers. First and foremost is the need not just for more
monitoring and evaluation, but also for better methods. And they
have to do - especially where Fairtrade certification is awarded to
co-operatives - with the espousal of a romantic ideology of how
co-operatives operate in poor rural areas."
In response, Fairtrade International said that it was "keen to
understand the findings"; but it accused the report's authors of
making "generalised conclusions".
In a statement, it said: "We are disappointed to see that the
final report has not properly taken account of the many issues we
raised, particularly regarding what we view as the report's
generalised conclusions, unfair representation of data and lack of
attention to the specific interventions of the Fairtrade system
when attributing their conclusions to Fairtrade or other factors
affecting the experiences of waged workers.
"While we have already taken action on specific issues we have
been made aware of, the SOAS data and findings therefore warrant
further scrutiny and analysis, and we look forward to the
opportunity to do this now that the report has been published."
On its website, SOAS said that the objective of the research was
"to make a detailed case for new, cost-effective interventions
directly targeted to improve the standards of living of the poorest
people involved in agricultural export commodity production".