Cadbury Dairy Milk Goes Fair Trade in Canada

Flickr /xelcise

If you pick-up a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar in Canada these days you may notice some changes to the packaging. Since this summer, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk line has been fair trade certified. The wrappers now include an internationally recognized symbol that assures the sugar and cocoa have been purchased from producers paid a fair wage for their crop. Cadbury’s first fair trade bars were released in the UK and Ireland in 2009 and more recently in Canada, Australia and New Zealand in 2010. According to the Cadbury website, going fair trade will quadruple the sales of fair trade cocoa from Ghana and affect over 40,000 cocoa farmers.

The fair trade marketing campaign:

To accompany the release of its fair trade line, Cadbury has unveiled a marketing campaign that invites people to “see the big fair trade picture”. The campaign features print, billboard and online advertising as well as a redesigned website dedicated to the brand (dairymilk.ca). At the centre of the campaign is a series of murals in Toronto and Montreal designed by a Ghanian artist, each of which focuses on a particular benefit of fair trade. The murals fit together like puzzle pieces to present the “big picture”.  Themes of the murals include “Improving Local Infrastructure”, “Providing Access to Clean Water”, “Improving Local Health Care” and more. Out-of-home advertising also featured a summer street campaign that invited passersby to sign a petition supporting fair trade in Canada.

Is big business good for fair trade?

This move has brought plenty of attention to Cadbury and has some questioning if big business’ increasing interest in fair trade is good for the sector. On the one hand, more corporations moving some of their buying to fair trade could have a large positive impact worldwide. Further, the greater availability of fair trade certified products could raise awareness among consumers. There’s also the hope that other corporations will note their competitors shift and joins suit, for example Hershey’s or Nestle.

But is it enough for Cadbury to convert one of its lines to fair trade designation? If they’re committed to the tenets of the movement, shouldn’t they be buying fair trade inputs for all their products? It’s a good question. A skeptical view of Cadbury’s fair trade Dairy Milk may lead one to conclude its primarily a marketing stunt; an attempt to improve Cadbury’s public image without a full commitment to sustainability.

It’s a start:

At Reeve Consulting we’re not quick to jump to this conclusion. We support incremental change and from experience realize that broader change takes time.  Companies face many challenges in converting their supply chains and in most cases need to start small. An important element for us is that companies acknowledge there are problems beyond those they’re starting with, and that moving forward there’s a plan for these issues to be addressed.

We’re hoping to discuss this further with Cadbury’s Ethical Sourcing Manager this week when we attend the Sustainable Supply Chain Solutions conference in San Francisco. Watch this space for a follow-up post on what we find out. We’ll also be tweeting from the conference at @ReeveConsulting.

Are there too many eco-labels and green ratings?

Flickr / Jeff Keen

This is a good question and one we hear often at Reeve Consulting. In a recent article on GreenBiz.com, Joshua Saunders of GoodGuide tackles this issue and presents some valuable insights.

With over 300 eco-labels in the global marketplace, and more being added each year, manufacturers, businesses and consumers are faced with increasingly complex decisions when it comes to green ratings.

To simplify ecolabel decisions, Saunders suggests an oligopoly of labeling organizations with larger barriers to entry is needed. Essentially a handful of credible certification programs, labels and rating systems to dominate the market. A distinction is made between this and a “one choice” market, with Saunders stressing the importance of competition between ecolabels to fuel transparency, rigor, credibility, service and price.

Greenbiz.com

In fact it seems we’re not far from an ecolabel market dominated by a few suppliers. As Saunders rightly describes, ecolabels are segmented by product category, industry and geography. When purchasing a product, one doesn’t actually choose from 300 ecolabels, but a smaller subset that applies to the product in question.

Saunders also explains that, while more ecolabels are being introduced each year, more consolidation is taking place among the labeling organizations.  An example of this is the recent acquisition of the Canadian certification program TerraChoice by UL. This is exciting news, and we’re interested to learn about the next steps for Terra Choice when we connect with our colleagues Scott McDougall and Angela Griffiths.

Saunders article ends by stating there’s little doubt that the sustainable labeling field is moving towards greater collaboration and consolidation.  That’s good news because ecolabels are becoming an increasingly important tool for corporate and consumer purchasing. Everyone will benefit from more credible labeling and rating systems.

Read Joshua Saunders full article HERE.

Can sweatshops improve lives and economic growth?

Flickr / lovstromp

Benjamin Powell, a Stafford University professor of economics, thinks so!

In his book No Sweat: How Sweatshops Improve Lives and Economic Growth he argues that we should rejoice when we buy apparel made in sweatshops because it creates jobs and provides a living for people in poorer countries. He states that sweatshop workers usually earn at least the national average and therefore make a good living that should be supported by our consumption.

But Powell is “arguing in support of the lesser evil.” The other piece of the puzzle that Powell seems to ignore is that the same companies that are using sweatshops could continue to invest in developing economies, bring jobs to the same nations, and improve economic welfare, while at the same time refusing to support sweatshops conditions.

The fact is, whether or not workers earn a decent wage, the human rights of sweatshop workers are consistently violated, making Powell’s argument hard to swallow. Many factories workers suffer forced overtime, terrible factory conditions and often receive less than they were promised, in salary or food. In some case children are exploited and are not able to receive an education as a result.

At Reeve Consulting, we believe lives can be improved and economies can grow by engaging with suppliers and manufacturers to improve labour conditions in production facilities. Addressing ethics in supply chains does not mean closing down factories and laying off staff; it means working to improve the lives of factory workers, increasing profits for factory owners, and stimulating economic growth.

Whatever the potential economic arguments for sweatshops may be, one should not forget that “an economy” is a human construct and is therefore interconnected to human wellbeing. Some sweatshops may pay decent wages (relatively speaking) in some or even many cases, but a factory where staff are sick and tired is not a place where lives can be improved and profits can be maximized.

Sustainability Reaches the Walmart World

Flickr / mjb84

Traditionally associated with a ‘super-size-me’ kind of lifestyle, Walmart seems to be making changes to fit in with the green movement – possibly in a big way.

This past February, Walmart Canada hosted a Green Business Summit that resulted in 24 of Canada’s largest corporations accepting Walmart’s challenge to commit to the following: “My organization will launch a major sustainability project over the next year in Canada focused on waste, energy, water or sustainable products or services.” It’s not clear that every corporation that accepted the challenge has delivered, but this week 8 of the companies have posted “Sustainability Commitment Updates” on www.sharegreen.ca.

Walmart’s own commitment was to make the switch to sustainable seafood, a hot topic these days, with Greenpeace putting pressure on large companies like Costco for selling species of fish, scallops and prawns that the group deems to be unsustainable, while sustainable seafood certification programs, such as SeaChoice and OceanWise, are being adopted by more and more firms. Walmart Canada has pledged to carry only fish that meets at least minimum standards for sustainability, by 2013.

Seven other companies have posted their own updates: Frito-Lay Canada and Kraft Canada are working towards more sustainable packaging for their products (for example, Frito-Lay’s 100% compostable chip bags); Hallmark Canada and Nature’s Grilling Products have targets to reduce energy use in their plants and offices, and Nature’s Grilling has committed to using sustainably sourced charcoal; The Home Depot Canada and Kruger Products both have energy and GHG emissions reduction targets that they’re already working to meet, and Heinz Canada has also already begun reducing its GHG emissions.

It’s nice to see some of the giants making moves, but we’re cautious to become too excited: “sustainability” can be a loosely applied term, and the phenomenon of “greenwashing” can make it hard to tell how environmentally responsible firms’ choices actually are. Additionally, ethical considerations can often lose out when “green” targets are easier to achieve. Regardless, going green has clearly gone mainstream, and that’s probably for the better. As with any movement, we’d prefer large-scale shifts in the way things are done, however, small steps are encouraging, as long as they only mark the beginning.

City of Vancouver Commits to Fair Trade Java; the Greenest City just got a little bit Greener

Flickr / 96dpi

The City of Vancouver is keeping pace with several other Canadian municipalities by applying to become a “Fair Trade Town.” This commits the City to purchasing Fair Trade coffee, tea and sugar, as well as other Fair Trade products for meetings, offices and cafeterias. Eight Canadian towns have already received certification and at least eleven other Canadian municipalities are working towards becoming “Fair Trade Towns,” including Montreal, St. John’s, and Quebec City.

Transfair Canada – Canada’s third-party certifier of Fair Trade products – provides the official “Fair Trade Town” status, which is slated to happen for Vancouver this week, just in time for World Fair Trade Day (Saturday, May 8th). Vancouver will be Canada’s largest municipality to have achieved this designation.

Fair Trade guarantees that business supply chains function according to standards of fairness, transparency and accountability – setting the proverbial ‘level playing field’ – especially for those at the producing end of the supply chain. Vancouver’s commitment to Fair Trade means the City will use its spending power to advance several social and environmental objectives, such as the ‘green economy’, ‘fair labour practices’ and ‘toxic free’ food production.

In a report presented to Vancouver City Council, ethical and sustainable purchasing has been identified as a key priority by Mayor Robertson’s Greenest City Action Team, and is seen as a strategic and cross-cutting lever for making Vancouver a leading edge sustainability organization.

We at Reeve Consulting believe these kinds of commitments are a very important piece in creating a green and fair economy; an economy from which everyone can derive benefit. We think more municipalities should commit to these policies. We also know that public declarations are just one step in a process of positive change. They are an important declaration. But as many will attest, maximum strategic impacts come when innovative policy meets with outstanding implementation.

Fair Trade Certified jeans and t-shirts coming to stores in the U.S. in 2010!

Flickr / geishaboy500

When buying clothes in North America, it is quite difficult to know whether or not they were produced in a sweatshop. But now, two leading independent groups have teamed up to try and make it easier for consumers to select ethically produced clothes, simply by looking at the label.

Transfair USA and Social Accountability Accreditation Services Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) – the agency that oversees the SA8000 certification for ethical factories (i.e. “non-sweatshops”) – teamed up this year to integrate auditing processes in a pilot project that will result in the first Fair Trade Certified jeans and t-shirts in the USA market! A groundbreaking effort on three fronts.

First, Fair Trade certifying bodies have been grappling to extend Fair Trade Certification beyond basic agricultural commodities (e.g. coffee, tea, fruit and cotton) to the production of garments and other factory made items. This recent move by Transfair USA to extend the Fair Trade label to clothing is the first of its kind. Consumers will soon be able to look at the label on their jeans and trust that they were not produced in a sweatshop.

Second, it is rare to see two third-party certifying bodies double check each other’s work, so to speak. Often, our trust, as consumers, must be put into a single certification system. Now, however, when consumers buy Fair Trade Certified apparel in the USA (on shelves in Fall 2010) they can be assured that SAAS was also closely involved in ensuring that the garments were not stitched together in a sweatshop. This brings a new level of strength and legitimacy to third-party product certifications.

Third, Transfair USA and SAAS’s partnership is also groundbreaking in that they are working together to make it easier for factories to demonstrate compliance with ethical standards. Ethical compliance auditing processes can be cumbersome and many manufacturing facilities are reporting “audit fatigue” as a result of having to complete multiple audits per year for different agencies. Transfair USA and SAAS’s efforts to integrate their auditing process will help alleviate some of this pressure.

This type of partnership between Transfair USA and SAAS will hopefully generate a ripple effect in the third-party product certification space. Will we see more certifying bodies joining forces to harmonize standards and auditing processes? Or will consumers continue to have to wade through multiple certifications and try to decipher which ones are better? Reeve looks forward to seeing how this will influence other agencies and maybe one day Transfair Canada will partner with someone like SAAS and bring Fair Trade Certified clothing to our stores.

Click here for more information on this partnership.

Environmental Purchasing “Torch” passes to Sochi 2014

Flickr / thelastminute

The Organizing Committee for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games seems poised to continue the strong legacy of ethical and environmental purchasing within the Olympic community. Organizers for the Sochi Games are currently working with a team of strategic advisors to design an environmental procurement program that will result in a 2014 Winter Games with less waste and lower GHG emissions. Sochi has been particularly interested in the Vancouver 2010 Buy Smart program, an ethical and sustainable purchasing program that Reeve helped design and implement, which was recognized as setting a new bar for Olympic purchasing programs.

Reeve has partnered with Shaneco, a Russian environmental consulting firm, to create an Environmental Procurement Policy (EPP) for Sochi 2014. The draft EPP has been designed to foster procurement practice that is in harmony with nature, is climate neutral, minimizes waste, and enlightens the suppliers of the Sochi region as well as the broader community. Dmitriy Kolosov, head of Environmental Programming for the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, stressed that it is imperative to use the high profile of the Winter Games to “enlighten” the Russian supplier community in order to have a lasting, positive impact on the natural environment of the Sochi region.

So far it has really been the Organizing Committee’s, such as Vancouver 2010 and London 2012, who have really led the way within the Olympic community at increasing the uptake of ethical and environmental procurement. It is interesting to note a comment made by Derek Wyatt, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Group. At the Sports, Legacy and Sustainability Dialogue, held during the Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Wyatt talked candidly about the need for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to offer greater commitment to ensuring an environmental sustainability legacy in Host Cities. In his opinion, OCOGs and Host Cities carry the environmental sustainability agenda with little support from the IOC.

The new Candidature Procedures, the procedures for bidding to host the 2016 Games, now ask bid cities to demonstrate the steps they will take, in regards to sourcing licensed products, to ensure that social and environmental factors are taken into account in making selection decisions. This is the first time this question has been asked of bid cities, but this direction is limited to licensed merchandise (products that carry the Olympic logo) and does not extend to sourcing sustainable items for operational purposes. Reeve hopes that as Organizing Committees continue to push this agenda forward that the IOC will consider ways in which it can offer more specific direction to sourcing sustainable products and services for all functions of the Olympic Games.

Please share your stories about other organizations that are also pushing the ethical and/or environmental purchasing movement ahead in the comment section of our blog.

Bridging the Gap Between Local Action and Global Impact

Engineers Without Borders / Bridging the Gap

Mohandas Ghandi once said: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” This was the inspiration behind this year’s Engineers Without Borders’ (EWB) Bridging the Gap Conference held at UBC on March 27th.

Compelling keynote presentations delivered by Shauna Sylvester and Dr. Hans Rosling and several breakout sessions cut across four main themes: EWB’s Values and Capacity Building, Advocacy, Serving Global Society, and Connecting to the Developing World. According to Rogayeh Tabrizi, event organizer extraordinaire, “we came together to create a space for dialogue, for understanding, for sharing the passion, for helping each other see the world around us better.”

The Fair Trade breakout session encouraged critical discussion by walking participants through what it means to “trade fairly.” Workshop facilitators Stacey Toews, of Level Ground Trading, and Randy Hooper, of Discovery Organics, talked candidly about how true fair trade has to go beyond just putting a Fair Trade Certified logo on a package. From their perspective, building direct relationships with producers that are based in transparency, dialogue and respect is really what fair trade is about.

This contention resonates across the field of ethical and sustainable purchasing. Countless examples of successful ethical and sustainable purchasing (ESP) programs demonstrate that focusing on supplier or producer relationships is imperative. In interviewing leaders and pioneers in this field, Reeve has heard procurement professionals say time and time again that without building strong relationships with suppliers their ESP initiatives would have been less successful.

When you buy products or services do you just look for a third-party ecolabel to ease your conscious or do you go beyond to learn more about the supplier or producer who is behind the product? You may not have time to build longterm relationships with all your suppliers, but even just asking a few simple questions about their business practices or their relationships with their contractors will facilitate understanding and greater success in achieving your sustainability goals. To paraphrase Toews and Hooper, go beyond product labelling and dig deeper…get to know the people behind your products and enter into dialogue with them.

Who Sets the Standards for Ecolabels?

It is common practice to rely on third-party ecolabels to define environmental criteria for particular purchasing categories.  Ecolabels provide third-party verification of the environmental and social standards related to a particular product or service category and can be used to reduce the onus of creating environmental criteria.  By understanding how to identify a mature and credible ecolabel purchasers can rely on these pre-determined criteria and simply specify that the product or service in question carry this ecolabel, removing the burden of developing criteria.

There are over 350 ecolabels in the global marketplace so it important to understand how to identify mature and credible ecolabel standards, as all are not created equally.  There are three main international expert sources that provide definitions of different types of ecolabels and set out parameters for developing high quality ecolabels that consumers can trust.  The following provides an introduction to these organizations and briefly describes their efforts to set international parameters for ecolabelling.

International Parameters for Ecolabels: Key Organizations and Definitions

The following organizations have set international definitions and parameters for ecolabels:

  1. Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN)
  2. International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  3. ISEAL Alliance

Global Ecolabelling Network

GEN is a non-profit association of third-party environmental performance recognition, certification and labeling organizations founded in 1994 to improve, promote and develop the ecolabelling of products and services.  GEN defines different types of ecolabels, categorizes existing ecolabels, and sets generic environmental criteria for specific product and service categories.  As a membership based organization, GEN provides assurance that member organizations are meeting their parameters for ecolabelling.

For more detail visit: http://www.globalecolabelling.net/whatis.html

International Organization for Standardization

ISO is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards.  It brings together a network of national standards institutes from 159 countries to build consensus of global standard setting.  In particular, they have created the ISO 14020 series of standards that define parameters for developing environmental labels and declarations.  This series includes ISO 14024, 14021 and 14025, which define the parameters for Type I, II, and III ecolabels, respectively.

For more detail visit: http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=34425

ISEAL Alliance

ISEAL is a global association for social and environmental standards.  It works with established and emerging voluntary standard systems to develop guidance and strengthen the effectiveness of these standards.  They also work with companies, non-profits and governments to support their referencing and use of voluntary standards.  They have developed Codes of Good Practice that are applied to leading standards systems and are an ISEAL membership requirement.  As a membership based organization, ISEAL provides assurance that member organizations are meeting their parameters for ecolabelling.

For more detail visit: http://www.isealalliance.org/content/codes-good-practice

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What’s in a label? ISEAL Alliance aims for a gold medal with standard setting code.

Who’s certifying the certifiers?

Credible standards that define sustainable products is critical to ongoing work in sustainable supply chains.  Here’s an interesting presentation from a group that’s trying to bring more consistency to the standard setting process.  ISEAL is an organisation that is comprised of groups like FSC, Marine Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance and more.

Reeve is keen to see more developments like these.

Check out this quick and informative presentation on ISEAL Alliances Standard-Setting Code: Introduction to the ISEAL Standard-Setting Code

View more presentations from ISEAL Alliance.