Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International
Fair trade can be described as “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade”. To this end, fair trade organisations aim to encourage marginalised producers and workers to give them greater stability and economic self sufficiency. They also aim to empower producers and workers as stakeholders of their organisations. On a larger scale, they attempt to create greater equity in international trade.
What is Fairtrade Labelling Organisations (FLO) International?
The Fairtrade Labelling Organisations (FLO) International is a non-profit organisation that comprises of 23 member organisations, traders and external experts. It is part of a worldwide network of fair trade organisations.
The FLO acts as an umbrella organisation that unites labelling initiatives in 20 countries including:
- Fairtrade Austria, Austria 
- Max Havelaar, Belgium 
- TransFair Canada 
- Max Havelaar, Denmark 
- Reilun kaupan edistämisyhdistys ry. Finland 
- Max Havelaar, France 
- Transfair Germany 
- Fairtrade Mark Ireland 
- Fairtrade TransFair Italy 
- Fairtrade Label, Japan 
- TransFair Minka Luxembourg 
- Stichting Max Havelaar Netherlands 
- Fairtrade Max Havelaar Norway 
- Asociacion para el Sello de Comercio Justo, Spain 
- Rättvisemärkt Sweden 
- Max Havelaar Stiftung Switzerland 
- Fairtrade Foundation UK 
- TransFair USA 
- Fairtrade Labelling Australia and New Zealand 
- Comercio Justo Mexico 
These labelling initiatives license the certification mark on products and promote fair trade in their own countries.
Producer networks are also a part of FLO and can take part in the decision making process of FLO. Producer networks are organisations that Fairtrade Certified Producers may join and are recognised by FLO.
Currently there are three producer networks – in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
What are FLO International’s Functions?
The FLO aims to make the fair trade system credible by providing a transparent system of certification that ensures that producers, retailers and traders comply with fair-trade standards.
The main tasks and responsibilities of the FLO are:
- The setting up of international fair trade standards: The FLO has set up a body that lays down fair trade standards.
- Developing and facilitating fair-trade businesses: The FLO works with fair-trade certified organisations to strengthen themselves in their production and market access.
- Making the case for trade justice: Along with other international fair trade organisations, the FLO has created FINE. FINE is a common platform for the promotion of fair trade in debates both in Europe and internationally.
How does FLO International support producers ?
FLO International undertakes measures to provide producers with necessary assistance through:
- Producer Business Unit (PBU): The PBU was set up in 2005 to help producers gain the information they need to strengthen their businesses and expand markets for their products. The PBU also gives export and marketing advice. The PBU has a Liaison Development Department which is responsible for the strategic development of a sustainable producer support and producer liaison function. It also undertakes information and training inputs.
- Liaison Officers: To support the work of the PBU, FLO International has Liaison Officers in producer countries that offer producers information, advice and training. The Liaison Officers assist producers comply with Fairtrade standards and also give regional and product feedback to FLO. The Liaison Officers are also mainly responsible for seeking out new products and producers and introducing them to fair trade. They also help co-ordinate the pricing process and provide information on local networks.
- Producer Certification Fund: FLO has set up a fund for Small Farmers’ Organisations. This provides financial aid to Small Farmers’ Organisations that are applying for initial Fairtrade certification or renewing their existing ones. The fund does not grant 100% of the certification fees but is intended as a co-financing support.
What are the FLO International Standards?
In order to be certified by the FLO, organisations must meet the Fairtrade Standards. The Fairtrade Standards are set up by the FLO Standards Committee wherein stakeholders from the FLO member organisations, producer organisations, traders and external experts participate.
The FLO not only sets up minimum standards for socially responsible production and trade but also guarantees a minimum price considered fair to producers. “They provide a Fairtrade Premium which the producer must invest in projects enhancing its social, economic and environmental development”. The standards are set up with the aim of long term mutually beneficial relationships and also set clear minimum criteria for sustainability.
There are separate standards that apply for producers and traders. It is also important to know that each producer or trader needs to comply with the relevant generic standards as well as product standards that include Fairtrade Minimum Prices and Premiums.
The FLO publishes its annual work plan for its standard setting activities.
What is the International Fairtrade Certification Mark ?
The International Fairtrade Certification Mark is trademark logo owned by FLO and is used by all labelling initiatives covered by FLO International except for Max Havelaar Switzerland, Transfair Canada and Transfair USA – who use their own logo.
- The International Fairtrade Certification Mark acts as a guarantee that Fairtrade Products have been certified in accordance with International Fairtrade Standards.
- It is licensed by the labelling initiatives that are a part of FLO in their own countries, and in countries where there is no labelling initiative; FLO-CERT licenses the mark.
- It is mainly meant for consumer-end products but is also sometimes used on wholesale products.
FLO-CERT is an autonomous organisation is responsible for monitoring the buying and selling of the product until it is packaged and labelled for the consumer. FLO-CERT only issues the certificate after physical inspection that Fairtrade Standards have been complied with.