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.

Sports, Legacy and Sustainability Dialogue with Bruce Kidd

Are the Olympics worth it?  That was the question posed to the Sports, Legacy and Sustainability panel on March 13, 2010.  Bruce Kidd, former Olympic athlete and guru of sports and sustainability, anchored the panel with an opening reflection on sustainability in Olympics past.  He seemed encouraged by the progress, yet hesitant to answer yes to his question.

Bruce gave credit where credit is due:  VANOC did build some of the greenest buildings in the world to host athletes; it was the first Olympics to embrace Aboriginal participation at the organizing level; and, VANOC’s Buy Smart program broke ground in the area of sustainable purchasing.

The most important legacy of the Games is athleticism, before the environment, before anything according to Kidd.  And although Canada has proudly hosted three Olympic Games, we were disappointed to hear that participation of children and youth in sports in this country is plummeting.

Flickr / adrian8_8

Kidd was joined by Derek Wyatt, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Group and James Tansey of Offsetters.  Wyatt talked candidly about the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) lack of commitment to ensuring a sustainable legacy in Host Cities.  In his opinion, Host Cities carry the sustainability agenda with little support from the IOC.

Wyatt is advocating for the IOC to support the creation of an “Olympic University” in London that would provide training and education to disenfranchised inner-city East Londoners.  Wyatt believes this is a missed opportunity.  The Organizing Committee for London 2012 could hire more of the so called “underemployed” inner-City folks from East London if training was provided amongst this population.

James Tansey was more positive and sited the sustainability wins of VANOC including their commitments to offsetting the carbon footprint, the green building designs and the training legacy of the Buy Smart program.

Despite having different priorities, the panellists agreed that Host Cities and those who live there feel a deep sense of human spirit and pride, which in itself is a large legacy.  Human’s need food for the body as well as the heart, said Kidd.  To paraphrase James Tansey:  ‘on that gold medal Sunday, Canadians had so much pride they didn’t know what to do with it’.

This is a debate that will continue.  We see many benefits – but are waiting to learn more about the real results before making a final decision.   What do you think?  “Is it worth it?”  Please post your comments as you begin to reflect on your Olympic legacy.

Reeve Help’s Bridge the Gap Between Active Canadian Citizens and Poverty Elimination in Africa

Engineers Without Borders / Bridging the Gap

Reeve Consulting has proudly sponsored students to participate in the 2010 Engineers Without Borders’ Bridging the Gap Conference, Western Canada’s premier international development conference.  This conference will engage youth and professionals from across the Lower Mainland on current issues related to international development and poverty reduction, including fair trade and sustainable supply chains.  Reeve staff has been helping to coordinate the conference on a volunteer basis and is looking forward to attending the conference as a potential workshop facilitator.  The conference is open to the public, so we encourage to attend!  For more information go to http://bridgingthegap.ewb.ca/.

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Medals: the Untold Story

Flickr / US Mission Canada

Did you know that the Vancouver 2010 Olympic medals are made of recycled gold, silver and bronze recovered from used electronics?  It’s true, the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the 2010 Games has worked with their domestic sponsor Teck Resources to ensure each of the 1,000+ medals contain recycled metals from electronic waste.  This is a great achievement worthy of its own medal and should be shared to inspire the world to take on similar initiatives.

With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games well underway, many Olympic champions have risen to the podium to accept their medals, how many know that the medals they receive symbolize more than an ultimate athletic achievement.  On Sunday, Kevin McCarty had the amazing opportunity to sit with the athletes’ families during the speed skating and cross country skiing Victory Ceremonies.  He reported that it was a powerful experience to witness their emotion as their loved one’s bowed to receive their medals.  However, he also noticed that the story of recycled metal in the medals wasn’t made apparent during the ceremonies.

Some might argue that the Victory Ceremonies are not about environmentalism and social responsibility, but during the beginning of the ceremonies information was projected on three large screens above the podium that proudly outlined VANOC’s commitment to being one of the most sustainable Games in Olympic history.  So there is a place in the Ceremonies for environmentalism and social responsibility, but unfortunately the story of the medals was not apparent.  Additionally, there was a short video shown about the artists who designed the medals, but again, the story of the recycled content was not told.

We here at Reeve Consulting strongly believe in the power of purchasing to change the world we live in and feel it would be a great opportunity to promote sustainable purchasing while the world is watching.  The story of the medals and their recycled metal content is a great example of how VANOC is helping to change the world.  The Victory Ceremonies would be a great place to share this story.

Check out these related blogs for more information on the Buy Smart Program and related success stories:  Buy Smart Program; Vancouver Olympics Sources Ethically Produced Flowers for Medal Ceremony

Beyond the Sexy Consequences of Giving Flowers for Valentine’s Day

Flickr / sophiea

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, flower shops across North America are about to buy and sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of cut flowers.

Are you planning on buying your special someone a bouquet?  Have you considered the consequences?  Many of them will likely be very positive, but there may be other related consequences that you wouldn’t want to share with your loved one.

Pause for a moment and imagine what is happening around the world as a result of Valentine’s Day.  North Americans are on the verge of demanding more long-stem roses than any other time of the year.  In response to this major demand, Latin America flower producers, in countries such as Ecuador and Colombia, are busy as can be cutting flowers and carefully packaging them so they survive the long journey north.  Boats, planes and trucks are gearing up to transport them all safely to your Valentine’s front door with a fairly large carbon footprint.

Sadly, as is the case with other tropical cash crops, such as coffee and chocolate, many flower producers across Latin America are reporting serious human rights violations in their workplace.  Acute pressure on production levels results in increased worker exploitation.  Did you know that the roses you may be buying this year might have been grown, cut and packaged by a woman who is working around the clock without breaks for very little money?

Don’t worry, I am not suggesting you avoid buying flowers for your loved one and try to explain the ethics behind it over a candle light dinner.  There are ethical and beautiful alternatives.

Here are two fairly simple solutions:

a) try to buy locally produced flowers (there are some green houses operating this time of year in North America), or

b) if you buy imported flowers from the south look for those that bear a FairTrade Certified Logo.

This year surprise your Valentine with a beautiful bouquet of flowers as well as a story of how these particular flowers are helping to make the world a better place.  This is sure to win you some extra points this Valentine’s Day!

See related blog entitled: Vancouver Olympics Sources Ethically Produced Flowers for Medal Ceremonies. This blog tells the story of how VANOC has made an effort to source flowers that meet ethical and environmental standards.

Vancouver Olympics Sources Ethically Produced Flowers for Medal Ceremonies

The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) will soon be handing out 1800 ethically sourced bouquets of flowers to champion athletes during the medal ceremonies. At a time when men and women around North America will be buying flowers for Valentine’s Day, VANOC’s story of sourcing flowers from an ethically and environmentally minded company is timely.

VANOC awarded the contract to produce the bouquets for the ceremonies to Just Beginning Flowers, a Surrey-based non-profit social enterprise that sources ethically produced flowers from Ecuador and from local producers in the Fraser Valley. Although there has been some recent criticism about the Olympic bouquets not containing native plant species (see related article below), the owners and operators of Just Beginning Flowers state that the flowers they import from Ecuador are ethically sourced and meet Fair Trade standards.

Through their Buy Smart program, which Reeve helped develop, VANOC has set up protocols to ensure their suppliers are adhering to social and ethical standards. Just Beginning Flowers is considered one of the program’s success stories as they not only source locally and ethically from abroad, but they are also a social enterprise that has developed a training program for students that have barriers to employment. Furthermore, Just Beginning Flowers employs green business practices with the goal of minimizing the impact of their operations on the environment.

Check out the related Vancouver Sun  article which highlights the controversy about the lack of native plant species in the Olympic bouquets. This Valentine’s Day will you buy native plant species or imported flowers from Latin America?

For more detail on the VANOC Buy Smart program check out: Buy Smart Program Designed by Reeve Consulting Receives 2010 Games “Sustainability Star”