What’s an ‘ethical’ banana?

Yesterday was International World Food Day. The theme for this year is Agricultural cooperatives.

The cooperative model brings people together to achieve common needs and aspirations in a democratic way. It’s a fundamental part of the fair trade movement and choosing fair trade products is a good way to support cooperatives and help ensure better returns for growers who get a fair price for their product. Not all fair trade producers are cooperatives but many are.

Fairtrade certification is an independent product certification system that enables consumers to choose products that that meet agreed environmental, labour and developmental standards.

However not all products that claim to be “fair” trade or “ethically” produced have independent certification to support these claims.  Without this it hard for the consumer to know whether there is any basis to their claims of “ethical” production.  Recently Dole have come under heavy criticism for their “ethical choice” label that the Commerce Commission warned was “misleading”.

Under current consumer law it is difficult and expensive for the Commerce Commission to prove claims like “ethical choice” as false. Which is why I am  pleased that the Commerce Select Committee, of which I am a member, has supported the proposed new provisions on “unsubstantiated representations” (that means claims with no backing) in its report back to the house on the draft consumer law reform bill.

These provisions target traders who make claims about their products without reasonable grounds, and will make it easier for the Commerce Commission to follow up on greenwash and other misleading product claims.

In the meantime, if you want to support fairly traded products, the best way is to look for the Fairtrade logo.

You can get some awesome products from fair trade cooperatives here in New Zealand, including People’s Coffee from Ethiopia and All Good Bananas from Ecuador.

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2 Comments Posted

  1. Good stuff. I much prefer fair trade over free trade, the more promotion of these ethical products the better.

  2. When looking for an ethical banana, it’s also important to remember that production, which is the focus of most ‘Fairtrade’ labels, is only one part of the process of getting a banana to the consumer.

    The banana might be produced at an environmentally aware cooperative, but then shipped on a flag of convenience vessel with unsafe working conditions, then sold in a union-bashing supermarket dependent on environmentally- destructive long supply chains, and on customers driving significant distances in private cars (and probably youth rates soon).

    Probably the fairtrade banana is still the better choice, but it isn’t by any means a full solution if you want an ‘ethical’ product.

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