As opposed to other initiatives presented in this chapter, fair trade initiatives mostly relate to small producers and are not necessarily focused on multinational companies. While the following section will provide a brief overview of the Fair Trade Labelling Organisation (FLO), numerous other types of programs and labels exist, such as environmental labelling initiatives.

Fair Trade Labelling Organisation (FLO)

Fairtrade (FT) is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Its purpose is to create opportunities for producers and workers who have been economically disadvantaged or marginalised by the conventional trading system. Different fairtrade labels have been developed, however, the most evolved system is the one developed by Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO). 1 All operators using Fairtrade certified products and/or handling the fairtrade price are inspected and certified by FLO-CERT.


Although standards differ depending on the scale of the production (small-scale producers, contract production, hired labour), they all set high requirements in terms of social development and labour conditions including with regard to non-discrimination, freedom of labour, freedom of association and collective bargaining, conditions of employment and occupational health and safety. FT standards also deal with environmental protection. Additionally, FT standards exist for each type of products labelled under fairtrade. Traders of fair trade products also abide by standards mainly with regard to prices paid to and contracts paid to producers.

FT standards are available at

Complaint’s Procedure

Under what conditions can a complaint be filed?

An allegations procedure has been set up to deal with allegations about a certified party (producer or trader) non-compliance with FT standards.

Who can file a complaint?

An allegation can be filed by anybody, including but not limited to, a Fairtrade customer, an NGO, a labour union, a worker or a member of the public. FLOCERT staff members including auditors are also encouraged to use the allegation process when they receive information outside the regular certification workflow. 2

Allegations can be submitted:

The party submitting the allegation must indicate the name of the concerned customer, the FLO ID if known, and all available information and evidence to support the allegation. Evidence is including but not limited to documents, statements, notes from meetings or interviews, pictures and media information. 3

Process and Outcome

The party filing the allegation is informed throughout the process. The quality management first evaluates the validity of the allegation to determine whether to initiate an investigation. If the allegation is considered valid, based on the kind and severity of the allegation, appropriate investigation measures are determined. This may include analysis of the written evidence provided by the allegation party, interviews with parties involved, evaluation of the allegation by a third party (e.g. technical expert opinion, legal statement), analysis of the allegation as part of the next regular audit at the concerned operator, an unannounced or additional audit to verify the allegation on site.

  • If the concerned operator is found to be in compliance with the Fairtrade Standards, the allegation will be summarily dismissed.
  • If the concerned operator is found to be in non-compliance with the Fairtrade Standards, FLO-CERT will issue a non-conformity. The regular Fairtrade certification process will be followed through, including the request for corrective measure or, if applicable, the appropriate sanctions (e.g.suspension, decertification). If the allegation was substantiated and the concerned customer was found to be in breach of the certification contract or applicable policies, FLOCERT may proceed to cancel the certification contract with the customer.