A Rose by Any Other Name…

 Fair Trade Certified flowers have been available in the United States for only two years, and are still not offered by most florists, grocers, or wholesalers. A large reason for this is the lack of understanding on what Fair Trade actually means, and how it’s different from the many different “green” labels that are currently available.

The Problem

Most of the Roses and other flowers sold in the United States come from outside our borders. In fact, over 70% of the cut flowers sold in the US come from Africa and South America. Workers on these floral farms are typically women and are often abused, paid unfairly, and forced to work outrageous hours to meet production quotas and keep their jobs. In addition, they are rarely given any protection from the many harmful chemicals and pesticides that are used on most farms. Because of these factors, the negative environmental, social, and economic impacts of the floral industry in developing countries are astounding.

The Confusing Solution

Over time, and with the rise of consumer awareness, many “green” labeling efforts have taken the initiative to make positive changes in the floral industry worldwide. However, consumers have good reason to question what these labels actually mean. Labels like FlorVerde, Veriflora, and Sierra Eco have all helped to reduce the impact of environmentally degrading growing practices in various ways.

Flowers with some of these labels may be offered at your local CO-OP and florists, and they are a great step forward in improving the floral industry worldwide. The problem for consumers is that these labels are often hard to differentiate between, and offer little solution to the many human rights abuses that mar the floral industry. In addition, consistency in what these labels mean from farm to farm has been far from stable, even in recent years.

Fair Trade Certification

Flowers and floral farms can only be certified as Fair Trade for the US market by TransFair USA. This international organization guaranteesconsumers that strict environmental, social, and economic criteria were met in the production and trade of your flowers. So, in addition to amending environmental abuses, Fair Trade Certification empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

According to TransFair USA’s website Fair Trade Certification includes these principles:

  • Fair prices: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.
  • Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.
  • Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
  • Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade revenues.
  • Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.
  • Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.

To uphold these criteria, TransFair USA maintains close working relationships with certified farms, and is available to help each farm continue to develop its social and environmental programs. Look for the Fair Trade Certified label on Roses coming to your local soon and help support a truly sustainable initiative!

Published on Thursday, August 20, 2009