Before I finished up at work today, I made a call to the Fairtrade Label Japan and spoke with an enthusiastic woman named Naomi who was refreshingly straightforward in dealing with my queries. I’d read conflicting statements about whether or not products bearing the Fairtrade mark means that the producers don’t use trafficked workers, so the main purpose of the call was to learn more about the standards used in certifying cocoa.
Naomi told me that the certification criteria included prohibition of forced or child labour, and recommended that I take a look at the Fairtrade International (FLO – formerly Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International) website. FLO is the standards and certification body for the Fairtrade movement and provide the information I was looking for online (section 1.3 of this document covers trafficked workers).
In business, I’m used to encountering people who try to obscure the truth when it could have a negative impact on customer perception, but Naomi openly admitted that the Fairtrade label can’t be taken a guarentee that comodities such as cocoa have been produced without the use of forced or child labour; at present, limited resources mean that it isn’t feasible to monitor every producer all of the time. However, it does appear that Fairtrade have adequate standards for producers, though I’d like to find out the extent to which monitoring is undertaken.
A list of products made with Fairtrade cocoa which are sold by Japanese retailers can be seen here.