Fairtrade moves to enhance human rights and tackle child labour with improved cocoa standard

Fairtrade has moved to enhance its support for human rights within supply chains through updating its Cocoa Standard terms of operating including geolocation mapping of farms enabling greater transparency, reports Neill Barston.

The global social justice movement has maintained its position in seeking to drive the creation of a living wage for agricultural workers through its own premium payments, but believes its latest initiative will further enhance conditions for those within the sector’s frontline.

As Fairtrade explained, its latest update, which has been approved by its standards committee, has been delivered to meet specific sustainability priorities with progress on incomes and support for producers. In addition, it aims to strike a balance between robust mandates, regional priorities, and a shared responsibility of compliance between farmers and involved commercial operators.

Its initiative comes amid a context of continued major challenges for the industry, including the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the cost of living crisis that has been heightened by global market instability resulting from the ongoing war in Ukraine affecting supply chains.

“This latest update to our Cocoa Standard reflects Fairtrade’s continuing commitment to progress and its dedication to the shared goals of producers, businesses, and consumers in preventing child labour and fighting deforestation,” explained Sam Dormer, Fairtrade Foundation’s Global Product Manager for Cocoa. “At the same time, the updated Standard strengthens Fairtrade’s mission to promote farmers’ right to decent livelihoods and enable their potential as leaders of a fairer, more sustainable future for all.”

As the movement noted, its operating guidelines are reviewed and regularly updated through an inclusive and consultative process initiated and led by Fairtrade International’s Standards Unit, with the participation of key stakeholders in the Fairtrade system, including farmers and farm workers, and then decided upon by the Fairtrade International Standards Committee.

The Committee, the composition of which is 50 per cent producer and worker representatives, ensures that any decisions take into account the views of all the relevant stakeholders and are in line with Fairtrade International’s mission and policy statements.

Notably, the new changes will take effect over the next two years, aim to raise the bar for product standards, giving additional prominence to requirements on deforestation; Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence (HREDD); and traceability and transparency.

Furthermore, the update also spreads responsibility of compliance between producer organisations and commercial actors, with the latter called on to support producer organisations in prevention of child labour and deforestation where requirements have been strengthened. Many of the current changes are focused on cocoa from Africa, Asia, and, in some cases, specifically Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and seek to support producers in tackling the known risks in these areas, as well as prepare for other expected requirements, such as through the upcoming African Regional Standard for cocoa, and European Union legislation.

On deforestation, for instance, in addition to prevention and mitigation plan requirements, the adjusted Standard now requires farm geolocation mapping and for prevention and mitigation data to be collected by producer organisations for their own use, and reported to Fairtrade. Moreover, producer organisations are required to prepare measures that include awareness campaigns for their members and apply production practices that have a positive environmental impact.

For its part, the new HREDD requirements position farmers as partners in the process of implementing human rights and environmental due diligence, drawing specific attention to the prevention of child labour in cocoa production. In this regard, the updated Standard calls on producer organisations to implement monitoring and remediation systems more effectively. Sharecroppers and caretaker farmers are also included in the revised Standard with required written contracts now providing them with tangible benefits and greater visibility.

Significantly, Fairtrade has stated that organisations will now be required to report back to it on their sharecropper and tenant farmers once they reach their third year of certification. Finally, the human rights focus of the update also calls for additional equal opportunity requirements for women, including equal access to training.

Meanwhile, on traceability and transparency, the updated Standard will now require producers to implement product tracing solutions and clear documentation, enabling ‘first-mile’ traceability. This will allow them to map their members’ farms and trace what they buy from each farmer – an increasingly important capability for cocoa producers as they seek greater oversight of their businesses as well as the possibility of assuring buyers on how and where their cocoa is grown, particularly in relation to human rights issues.

“During the consultation process many stakeholders made clear the need for further support for producer organisations on human rights issues,” continued Dormer. “That is why Fairtrade is also announcing the creation of Fairtrade’s Programme for Child Labour and Forced Labour Prevention and Remediation. The programme will provide contributions to Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa producer organisations implementing quality prevention and remediation interventions that are now required in the Cocoa Standard,” which is being launched with €450,000 of funding, which it is anticipating will be enhanced further through additional backing from commercial partners and stakeholders.



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