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Just when consumers are demanding more ethical products a number of corporations’ are lowering standards which require little change to their business model.
“We live by the belief that best is always better”. Whittaker’s make this claim on their website and in their corporate statements. However, their decision to switch from using Fairtrade certification to Rainforest Alliance certification brings doubt to the credibility of that statement.
Let’s be clear, Rainforest Alliance has much lower standards than Fairtrade. There is no minimum price, no farmer ownership of standards, and no collective bargaining for workers. Reports of forced labour and child labour on Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa farms are commonplace.
Just when consumers are demanding more ethical products we see a number of corporations, like Whittaker’s, opting to take the easy way out. Instead of working to improve their own purchasing processes and supply chains they seek to make things easier for themselves by aligning with certification systems that have lower standards which require little change to their business model.
Fair World Project, a US fair trade advocacy group, summed up the trend for multinationals to use lower standard certification well- “without a commitment to a liveable minimum price, this is just rebranding poverty and exploitation as “ethical” and putting a label on it….we now see in ethical labelling the same forces in play as we see in the rest of our economy: a race to the bottom for the cheapest and most profitable”.
It is incredible disappointing, that a business that is recognised by Readers Digest as New Zealand’s most trusted brand would want to be a part of this trend.
If Whittaker’s is sincere in their belief that “best is always better” then they should be aligning with a certification system that delivers the best outcome for their cocoa farmers.
They should demand quality, not only in the product they make, but in the life of the cocoa farmer.