Questions and Answers with Caroline Hickson, Director of Brand and Communications, at Fairtrade International (FLO)

Aug 16, 2012 3:45 PM ET

Posted by Julie Fahnestock

After my provocative interview with Paul Rice from Fair Trade USA, I promised you'd hear from the "other side" of the movement too, so here you have it!  Caroline Hickson, Director of Brand and Communications, at Fairtrade International (FLO) sheds light on their model, pilot projects and plans for innovation. (Please note: the fair trade movement is a dynamic system, continually changing. For the most up-to-date information on the movement, please refer to the Fair Trade Resource Network:

Q: Thanks for your time today Caroline! Let's get right into the juicy stuff! According to Fair Trade USA, one of the main reasons they departed from FLO was because they wanted to expand their work beyond the cooperative model. Does FLO believe that fair trade only works in the cooperative model? 

A: No. The vast majority of our producers, 75%, work in cooperatives, but this is not a rule.        We ask that they be organized in some way shape or way. We believe the collective empowers producers, rather than working as individuals. We work with collective producers, small producers. We feel we started here and that's where the work is needed. We still have a huge number of producers to meet. That's where our focus needs to be.

Q: Paul Rice reiterated to me over and over that the cooperative model excludes the poorest of the poor. Families without land. Families with land, but not enough land to support their entire families. Do you believe this is true and if so, how does FLO use fair trade to empower the poorest of the poor?

A: We are looking at these questions. How do we get to the very poor?  We started pilot projects called "producers diversity."  How do we include different types of producers? Different non- cooperatives? There are really interesting groups in the Amazon, wild collectors of nuts. How do we certify them? Or indigenous groups in Colombia. How do we get involved with those groups? We have several pilot projects testing our model with new groups.

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