What is Ethical Trade?
One of the Soil Association's driving aims is to ensure that good food is available to everyone in society. For us good food is not just organically grown, minimally processed, fresh and seasonal, but it is also traded fairly – fairness being one of the four principles of organic agriculture as outlined by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) principle of fairness.
Our Ethical Trade standards were launched in 2008 following long standing calls from both the public and farmers to create a 'fair trading' scheme for organic farmers, in both the UK and abroad, which could work alongside Fairtrade certification.
There is clearly an appetite for fairer trading among the public – figures from the Co-operative's latest Ethical Consumerism Report (Dec 2011) show consumer spending on ethical products has increased during the economic downturn. During 2011 sales of Fairtrade food rose 36%, with overall spend on ethical food and drink up 5%.
What does the Soil Association Ethical Trade symbol mean?
Our Ethical Trade standards are an added extra on top of our existing organic standards. Many organic businesses are already doing lots of the things required by our Ethical Trade standards, but signing up to the scheme means they can communicate what they are doing more clearly to their customers. In order for the Ethical Trade symbol to appear on a product, a minimum 70% of the ingredients have to be from an Ethical Trade certified source.
What are the Ethical Trade Standards?
Our Ethical Trade standards apply to the whole supply chain and cover every step from field to finished product. The standards cover three main areas:
- Fair trading relationships: to ensure that trade negotiations are open and transparent, with long-term commitments in place and a fair price agreed.
- Fair employment conditions: this ensures that everyone involved in making the product has good working conditions and a fair wage.
- Social and cultural contributions: businesses are asked to demonstrate what they are doing in the wider community. It might be anything from getting school children onto their farms, to sponsoring local events.
Download a copy of the Ethical Trade standards [PDF, 120 KB]
Who is signed up to Ethical Trade?
Calon Wen milk cooperative
Calon Wen is a group of 25 organic family farms across Wales. Roger Kerr, director at Calon Wen, agrees that the standards help give customers confidence in what they're buying:
"We really believe that there has to be a fair return for everyone in the supply chain. As a small company, Ethical Trade underwrites this belief by independently endorsing our ethical position and clearly explaining it to customers – all of which we would find very difficult to do without it."
Doves Farm, organic and gluten free flour specialists
Doves Farm make organic and gluten free products including bread flours, biscuits, cookies, cereal bars, breakfast cereals, pasta and baking requisites. Michael Marriage, Doves Farm founder and managing director, is enthusiastic about helping to pioneer the scheme:
"I have always held a strong belief that an ethical approach to trade is essential, so I would urge other farmers and food companies to join this great scheme, akin to Fairtrade for the UK, as it gives visible recognition to the good practices that many are already engaged in."
Soil Association certified Yeo Valley, the UK’s biggest organic brand, is the latest addition to our Ethical Trade scheme. This means that all the milk in their products – yoghurt, butter, cheese and milk – will be certified to Soil Association Ethical Trade standards. Tim Mead, Yeo Valley managing director, explains how gaining the symbol can be challenging for larger businesses:
"We're proud to display the Soil Associations Ethical Trade logo as we've always strived to do the right thing and this logo shows consumers that we're recognised for doing just that. While 95% of gaining the certification was simply demonstrating how we have worked for years, meeting the standards led to us refining the way we do some things. As far as we're concerned, meeting the standards endorses our objective of doing the right thing and, crucially, helps us tell our customers why they should choose our products."
If you want to support fairer, ethical trade in the UK you can: