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Fair-trade in Beauty: Certification and Case Studies

By: Imogen Matthews
Posted: November 9, 2009, from the November 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

The roots of the fair-trade movement can be traced back more than 30 years to the Netherlands, where the first fair-trade labeling initiative was established to help import coffee under fair-trading terms. Since the launch of fair-trade in the U.K., it has grown into a broad-based social movement—bringing together a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, businesses and consumers, all seeking to make a positive impact toward the eradication of global poverty. The vision behind fair-trade is of a world in which justice and sustainable development are at the heart of trade structures and practices so that everyone, through their work, can maintain a decent and dignified livelihood and develop their full potential.

Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) International is an association that unites 23 fair-trade producer and labeling initiatives across Europe, Asia, Latin America, North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

In the U.K., the Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body and registered trademark of FLO International, which licenses the use of its fair-trade mark on products that meet international fair-trade standards. This independent consumer label is now recognized by 70% of U.K. consumers, and appears on products as a guarantee that disadvantaged producers are getting remunerated at a level appropriate to their work.

FLO International and its members have been working for several years on developing a policy for the labeling of beauty products containing fair-trade certified ingredients. In June 2009, the Fairtrade Foundation announced the first beauty products to be fair-trade certified. The new fair-trade products include lip balms, face masks, body butters and shower gels, and brands such as Lush,* Neal’s Yard, Boots, Essential Care and Bubble & Balm have launched products containing one or more fair-trade certified ingredients—notably cocoa butter, shea nut butter, sugar and brazil nut oil that benefit farming communities in countries in Africa, Asia and North America.