The Manufacturing Discussions: The Current Fair Trade Jewelry Scenario
This is an ongoing recording of dialog between the various members of our Manufacturing Group charged with the task of developing exceptional standards for jewelry manufacturing. Follow this link for full review of past discussions. The entire principles and standards document can be found here https://fairjewelry.org/archives/3196
While the focus for our Manufacturing Standards Group is on the mainstream jewelry sector, some members of our group work primarily within the artisanal/craft sector which supplies product to large fair trade companies that act as distributors. Google ‘fair trade jewelry’ and a number of these large companies will appear.
This dialog is a strong critique of some of those companies from members in our group that are deep within that system of commerce. The article picks up on a theme that we published earlier here on this post https://fairjewelry.org/archives/3373.
Publishing it now is a bit out of sequence.
~ Marc Choyt, Publisher
Martin Rizzi Wrote:
Circles are better than straight lines. …certainly, this is an agreeable thesis. The circle extended in time takes the form of spiral action on the surface of a cone; the golden section characteristics of living processes and healthy developmental economics.
The certification of jewelry and handcrafts for purposes of marketing them as fair trade or ethical products is a central question concerning anyone desiring to position him or herself in this rapidly growing market.
Well, how is this question of certification handled now? The history of Fair Trade goes back to World War Two. Both the European and the European progenitors of Fair Trade began their business operations in the 1940s. How has certification of handcrafts, and specifically jewelry, been handled and how is this being handled now?
Let us not jump to conclusions. What have been the certification process and standards over the past sixty years? And WHAT are the jewelry and esthetic ornnament and other decorative handcraft certification procedures in 2010?
Best wishes to all from Tecalpulco
Flavia Aarden-Kilger Wrote:
As someone who worked in the European fair trade market for a many years I can tell you …. there are no standards in handicrafts as to what is fair trade! There are only set standards for food.
What used to be IFAT (now WFTO) has been working on standards for about the past 2 years, but as far as I know there is no official standard yet. Nothing that can be compared to FLO (Transfair and MaxHavelaar’s fair trade certifcation) or RainForest Alliance or UtzKapeh.
What we (as buyers) would do in Europe is “discuss” the pricing with the producers. We would have consultants (that worked closely with producer groups) that would help us to set a minimum price for products. I don’t believe this always worked in the best interest of the producer. Especially for silver jewellery. Because of the fluctuating world market price for silver, which if you are not from the industry many do not understand and certainly can not calculate the silver in the cost price of the item.
All of this means, looking to “the old country” will not be very helpful now. There are currently many initiatives in Europe to set standards in jewellery and handicrafts, but there is nothing concrete now.
From a dreary Amsterdam (but heading to the spring Olympics in a few days!), greetings.
Martin Rizzi Wrote:
I know you have given a correct answer, the common wisdom regarding fair trade certification. It has long been acknowledged that Fair Trade standards exist in coffee and foodstuffs, but not in handcrafts. Nevertheless, there has been a reigning de facto Fair Trade certification in effect In North America, as principle supplier to the Fair Trade retail stores, 10,000 Villages sets the standard for what is to be regarded as Fair Trade.
Additionally, 10,000 Villages pays for the executive salaries of the Fair Trade Federation (with its seven importer-wholesaler directors)
At present, any artisans desiring to get their products approved to be sold as Fair Trade in North America are required to get into a supplier relationship with one of the established Fair Trade Federation wholesalers or else be a supplier to Ten Thousand Villages.
These are the only ways to get jewelry certified as Fair Trade in North America in 2010. The Fair Trade Federation takes pains in its published statements to make it very clear that the FTF does not verify anything with regard to how the product has been produced or by whom.
The ones who are responsible for the certification of jewelry and handcrafts are in fact the fair trade wholesalers and 10,000 Villages. For this very reason it is quite difficult for a producer of jewelry to access the Fair Trade markets in the United States.
The store owners are members of FTF or they are customers of 10,000 Villages; both of which organizations discourage the independent fair trade stores from purchasing jewelry or handcrafts from artisans in favor of buying products from them. This is how the de facto certification of fair trade jewelry and esthetic decorative objects and handcrafts functions at present.
The artisans are at a disadvantage in the reigning Fair Trade system because they can only sell via the Fair Trade wholesalers. If the Fair Trade wholesalers and 10,000 Villages do not bless them, these artisans are then excluded from the Fair Trade markets, thus certification which is supposed to be a guarantee of the reality of Fair Trade idealism functions as the buyer’s strong-arm lock
Kathy Green Deva Wrote:
For those that haven’t heard yet, the FTF is pulling all certifications away from non-U.S.-based manufacturers/artisan groups and are referring them to other certifying/labeling bodies (Green America I think?) I’m not sure why this came about, but I thought I’d share.