But imagine just for a moment, if the inverse were true:
Now imagine the impact such a model would have on the concept of Business as Usual!
Understanding the influence these institutions have in setting business practices and standards, I would like to examine the importance of contracting with producers, particularly when the aim is to introduce another paradigm altogether. In this contract, we want to address the current imbalances in buyer-producer relations; in other words, to level the playing field. However, it is not just to balance the relationship between buyers and producers, but keep them accountable to one another as well. As I mentioned in the last post, The Basic Question I sought to answer in creating a contract between Helvetas and their producers :
1. Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
2. Transparency and Accountability
3. Trading Practices
4. Payment of a Fair Price
5. Child Labour and Forced Labour
10. Environmental Protection
My focus in the drawing up the contract was as follows:
- To provide clear definitions for common understanding
- Assign clear and practical areas of responsibility to both the producer and the buyer for each principle. A Fair Trade contract cannot be one sided!
- Reference the relevant United Nations and ILO Conventions, thereby integrate a Rights-Based Approach into the contract
- Create a platform for in-depth discourse to develop common understandings that overcome social and cultural barriers between the buyer and the producer
To provide clear definitions for common understanding
One lesson we had in the Helvetas Workshop was about translation. Admittedly, some things can be lost or misinterpreted and there was a need for discourse to provide clarity. For example, in Vietnamese, the term accountability in contrast to responsibility was a challenge to translate to a common language. Additionally, the term transparency when applied was of concern to the producers. To what extent was transparency to be carried out? There was concern about information being utilized to start a competing enterprise that would endanger the first, so how far does this principle go and where is it applied? It took some explaining and examples to address this in the workshop. However, taking the lessons learned there, I decided to address those in the contract so I inserted simplified definitions that were easier to translate. For example:
Balancing responsibilities was done through careful analysis of each principle and viewing it from both the perspective of the producer and of the buyer. One example of balancing responsibilities between the buyer and the producer is in the Promotion of Fair Trade. Typically, it is thought that only the buyer is responsible for this since they are engaged in foreign markets. However, this can no longer be the case if Fair Trade is to be sustainable and truly global:
Promotion of Fair Trade
Responsibility of producer
· Producer raises awareness of the aim of Fair Trade through their business dealings with contracted suppliers and within their communities.
· Producer provides buyers with information about itself and the members that make or harvest the products.
· Producer advertising and marketing techniques are honest.
· Producer actively searches to diversify markets through efforts to expand Fair Trade in local, national and regional markets.
· Producer actively supports and participates in local, national and regional Fair Trade movements, networks and campaigns.
Responsibility of buyer
· Buyer raises awareness of the aim of Fair Trade and of the need for greater justice in world trade through Fair Trade.
· Buyer provides customers with information about itself, the products it markets, and the producer organizations or members that make or harvest the products.
· Buyer advertising and marketing techniques are honest.
· Buyer seeks means for Producer to increase access to local, national, regional, and international markets.
· Buyer actively supports, and when possible participates in local, national and regional Fair Trade movements, networks and campaigns.
Here producers are expected to act as catalysts for change by challenging the concept of Business as Usual in their dealings with suppliers. A simple question has to be asked in an example: How can a producer making bamboo handicrafts claim to be practicing Fair Trade if his supplier is sending children enslaved in debt-bondage into forests to haul out illegally cut bamboo and contributing to deforestation? To be a Fair Trade producer means more than just benefiting from the trade, but passing on the principles with their suppliers and in their communities.
This example also shows the realistic future of Fair Trade is in the lessening dependence on the traditional trade flow from global south to global north. This can be done through the expansion of Fair Trade into local, national and regional markets; and it is the responsibility of the buyer to support these efforts as well.
Integrating the Rights-Based Approach is more than simply referencing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the International Labour Organization (The UN specialized agency which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights). For example, in the section on Gender Equity and Non Discrimination, I included Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which is the only convention to provide such a clear definition of discrimination!
© Pam Fox
To utilize this contract as a platform for discourse between the buyer and the producer as a means to overcome social and cultural barriers is very important, especially when assumptions can go unspoken. For example, in the principle addressing issues of Child Labour and Forced Labour there is a lot of room for misunderstandings if not addressed directly.
- Buyer provides the Producer with at least a summary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the national language, and local language if applicable.
- Buyer works with Producer to ensure a common understanding of Child Labour versus the passing on of traditional craftsmanship and culture.
- Fair Trade;
- Sustainable Community Development;
- Human Rights and Child Rights;
- Women's Rights and Gender
Other areas I conduct training in are Organizational Development, Results-Based Management, Monitoring and Evaluation, Project Proposal Writing, and Management and Leadership.
Note: Special thanks to Dr. Sabam Malau for his comment and reminder below. The next post will focus on means of verification. Feel free to add your comments, thoughts or ideas below or catch me on facebook.
Mitch Teberg, MA