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Symbole des petits producteurs - small producers symbol

Small producers' symbol - Symbole des petits producteurs

Last year, the title of this web page was ‘Is it Working?’  And it began like this:

Has fair trade completely lived up to its promises?  Not yet. Its evolution from a marginal movement for social and economic justice to a mainstream institution puts it at risk of diluting its original mission. We are at a crossroads. Certification agencies now often compete for market share by lowering certification standards, inadvertently prioritizing the marketing strategies and profits of participating roasters and retailers at the expense of small producers. As well, many fair trade certified roasters compete for market share by exaggerating their fair trade credentials…

Our observations regarding that ‘crossroads’ were published on the FairTrade Canada website in February, 2011.

That was then.  Since then, Santropol has decided to disassociate itself from any and all fair trade ‘certification’ systems based in the North (the old system) and is now one of the first coffee roasters in the world to help build and to register with the first and only fair trade system created, governed and owned by small producers in the South:  The Small Producers’ Symbol. To date, we are accompanied by Just Us! Coffee roasters in Nova Scotia, Ethiquable in France, Equal Exchange in Massachusetts, and Just Coffee in Wisconsin, as well as by Cooperative Coffees, an association of 24 small coffee roasters in the United States and in Canada. The crossroads is behind us now. This time, we believe it will work.

The beauty and the soul of this system derive from the fact that it turns conventional fair trade on its head:  prices and standards, governance and administrative structures are defined and ensured by producers themselves, rather than by distant, expensive and paternalistic bureaucracies in the North. Fees collected from buyers and producers in the system are paid to an administrative and governing foundation (FUNDEPPO, Fundación de Pequeños Productores Organizados, or Organized Small Producers’ Foundation) established by the largest association of small-producer cooperatives in Central and South America, known as CLAC (Coordinadora Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Pequeños Productores de Comercio Justo).  CLAC represents over one million people in 300 small-producer cooperatives located in 23 countries. CLAC ‘owns’ FUNDEPPO, and FUNDEPPO ‘owns’ the SPS. In the meantime, equivalent small producers’ associations in Africa and in Asia have been invited to join this new system.

In this new system:

  1. Minimum sustainable prices payable to producers by buyers are significantly higher than in the old system (in the case of organic coffee, now $2.20/lb as compared to $1.90).
  2. Administrative costs and fees payable to the foundation by producers are less than a quarter of the amount currently assessed by the old system.
  3. Administrative costs and fees payable to the foundation by buyers are less than half of the amount currently assessed by the old system.
  4. One third of all fees paid to the Foundation are to be reinvested in participating producer cooperatives.
  5. Inspections of producer cooperatives are performed in a respectful, supportive and consultative spirit by locally accredited and trained organic certifiers.
  6. Privately-owned plantations are not eligible for entry into the system.

As well, in order to prevent the participation of companies seeking certification in exchange for a minimal commitment to the values of the SPP, buyers must, to qualify for registration, adhere to :

  1. an internal Code of Conduct as well as
  2. a Declaration of Principles and Values, and
  3. must source at least 5% of their total purchases of a given product from registered small-producer cooperatives in the first year, increasing to at least 25% within 5 years of registration.

The old system requires nothing of buyers beyond tracking their purchases and sales of certified products and collecting fees based on the volume of those sales.

As well, although in the old system producer coops are required to verifiably demonstrate total financial and administrative transparency, incorruptibility, unimpeachable democratic government, respect for the environment and for humane labour practices, etc., in that system buyers are subject to no such standards at all: They can obtain fair trade certification for certain products, and yet, particularly in the case of certified multinationals, pay relatively little into the system in exchange for significant influence, enjoy the public-relations bonus, and carry on with business-as-usual everywhere else.

We believe that these features of the old system, above all, debauched (destroyed) fair trade as it used to be.  The good news is that a renaissance is now underway: an Alliance of the Small, born in the South, inviting producers and consumers, North and South, to participate in a radical, mutually beneficial model for economic, social and ecological justice. This is the promise of the Small Producers’ Symbol. And we will live by it.

If you would like to express your personal support to small producers in the South, you may sign the Pact of Unity and Commitment here.