Nothing embodies fair trade quite like a chocolate bar. It's fitting, then, that it's become the reference point in the debate that's threatening to split the fair trade movement.
Fair Trade USA, the country's largest certifier of fair trade products, recently announced certification changes that put it at odds with Fairtrade International, the global standards organization for fair trade, as well as numerous advocacy groups. Both sides share the chocolate example.
“We asked [FTUSA] if the changes to the commercial availability requirement mean a fair trade chocolate bar could be made without fair trade cocoa, and they said technically yes,” explained Ryan Zinn, campaign director with the Fair World Project, a watchdog organization that's part of the Organic Consumers Association. “That's a big problem.”
FTUSA, in response, said it will work with companies once they're certified to transition all their ingredients to fair trade.
“If you're a chocolate bar company that moves to have your cocoa fair trade certified, great, we're with you,” said Stacy Wagner, a spokeswoman for the organization. “But if you can't certify your sugar right now because it makes the chocolate bar go from $1 to $3, then we will work with you to continue to support that cocoa until the sugar becomes commercially available.”
The chocolate meltdown could cool off this month. After the initial outcry from the fair trade community, FTUSA said it would reevaluate the new standards and issue a final ruling on Dec. 1.