Call for new ethical label to cover third worldDecember 2008
Companies should be offered a new way of labelling ‘ethical’ goods that benefit people in the developing world, a think tank has recommended.
The London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) concedes that most ethical labels, such as those produced by the Fairtrade Foundation and the Rainforest Alliance, do a good job. But in a report last month it highlighted a gap that could be filled by a less rigorous ‘good for development’ label attached to goods that benefit developing country producers.
Such a label would indicate to consumers the ‘positive development impacts’ associated with the product, such as agricultural training and technical assistance for farmers.
However, it would not be allied to any new environmental or labour standards, and could be awarded simply if a company and its suppliers met minimum standards ‘such as complying with national laws’.
The Fairtrade Foundation, which runs the Fairtrade labelling scheme worldwide, said there was some merit in the idea, but added that it would be too easy to qualify for such a label along the lines described – and that it would therefore undermine efforts to raise standards in supply chains.
‘This would set the standard at a very low level and we’re unconvinced of the benefits,’ it told EP. ‘In any case, we think Fairtrade is already a “good for development” mark, and this may just confuse matters.’
The ODI, a charity that focuses on international development and humanitarian issues, says a new label would cover a much greater proportion of produce than existing ethical labelling schemes, ‘and include more producers in the poorest countries that are currently under-represented’.
It does not offer to create and run the label itself, but says: ‘The time is ripe for a new kind of initiative in this area.’
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