There are increasing numbers of labels, standards, codes of practice, and generic terms relating to different aspects of a product's sustainability. Fairtrade, World Fair Trade Organisation, British Association of Fair trade Shops (BAFTS) , Ethical Trading Initiative code of practice, Global Reporting Initiative, Fairwear, Rainforest Alliance Certification, Forestry Stewardship Council, carbon neutral, organic, gm free, ethical, sustainable, not tested on animals - is it any wonder that consumers get confused?
Few suppliers consistently, systematically, and openly report the economic, ecological, and social impacts of making, using and disposing of their products to consumers.
Fewer still publish and commit to measurable action plans to reduce the negative impacts, and build on the positive ones.
None, that we are aware of, have developed an interactive website to engage with their stakeholders to allow them to challenge these assessments and influence these 'Sustainability Improvement Plans'.
The Fair Traders Co-operative aims to be the first company to demonstrate, on a micro scale, that this can be a practical approach for brands who are serious about sustainability. In this way they hope to provoke much larger players into raising their game, and going beyond a 'do no harm' approach.
The process involves the retailer and/or brand, their importers, and their suppliers working together to identify potential improvements that could both deliver economic benefits and address the social and environmental issues of most concern to stakeholders across the supply chain.
It should be stressed that The Fair Traders Co-operative assessment is just a snapshot in time relating to current best practice ie what the best companies are achieving in terms of positive impacts and reducing negative ones. There is no 'good' or 'bad' as best practice may still have negative impacts (eg car manufacture). Neither is there a pass or fail against a standard or code of practice. We merely seek to openly report in layman's terms, the most significant impacts of a product's life cycle based on the information we have access to. The relative importance of these is for the consumer to decide not us. The assessment is there to engage, inform, and improve-not to make judgements. It is based on the views of our member consumer panel having considered the information provided by the supplier and available in the public domain. They attach considerable weight to verifiable public reporting against targeted improvements. We hope suppliers, consumers, workers, and NGO's will comment on our views and this input will be used to stimulate future improvements in sustainability.
We run training sessions for members who want to help with these assessments or participate in our panel. Please contact us if you are interested.