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National Advertising Review Board Determines that Fair Trade USA's "Fair Trade Certified" Labels Should Reveal Percentage of Fair Trade Content in Body Care Products

  • By Ryan Zinn
    Fair World Project, September 18, 2012

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PORTLAND, OR - Fair World Project (FWP), a campaign of the Organic Consumers Association, the nation's largest network of green and ethical consumers, commends the National Advertising Review Board's (NARB) decision that Fair Trade USA (formerly Transfair USA) require users of its "Fair Trade Certified" seal on body care and cosmetic products to further inform consumers of the percentage of fair trade ingredients in a product on the certifier's label.

The National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate review body within the Advertising Self Regulatory Council (ASRC), is composed of top national advertisers, advertising agencies, academics and professional individuals, including members from Xerox Corporation, Pfizer, Morgan Stanley, Nestle Foods, Campbell Soup Company, L'Oreal USA and Johnson & Johnson. The NARB provides a peer-review group to adjudicate disputes within advertising, and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Fair World Projects maintains the NARB ruling will catalyze a new era of "best practices" for 3rd party social and ethical labeling programs.

This debate over percentage labeling of fair trade ingredients was brought to the NARB as a result of disputes between Fair Trade USA and leading businesses in the body care industry regarding accusations of intentionally false and misleading labels, and divergent standards for fair trade qualifications. Per recommendation of the NARB, Fair Trade USA should reveal the percentage of fair trade ingredients as part of the "Fair Trade Certified" labels of products, in particular that contain less than a majority / 50% fair trade contents.

"As the market for fair trade and organic products grows, the NARB ruling sets a heightened standard to protect consumers from green-washing." Says Dana Geffner, Executive Director of the Fair World Project. "Consumers will be informed which products are truly supporting fair trade versus using a token amount to fly a fair trade seal, and can choose to have their ethical purchases reflect their values with deep impact. Genuinely committed fair trade brands will benefit from the clear comparison between high versus low quantities of fair trade ingredients across similar products."

Under Fair Trade USA's current "Fair Trade for All" policy, products that are labeled with the Fair Trade Certified Ingredients seal need only contain 20% fair trade ingredients by non-water weight. This new initiative toward transparency in labeling places the impetus on brands to increase a product's quantity of fair trade ingredients. Consumers will soon expect similar percentage Fair Trade labeling for food, clothing, and other categories of products not addressed in this ruling. Pro-active brands may even anticipate this demand, and begin specifying the percentage of Fair Trade ingredients on their product labels before a supplemental NARB ruling occurs.

"As companies increase fair trade ingredients in their products, the market size for such ingredients will increase for fair trade. Transparency in labeling communicates to consumers the degree of direct support their purchase contributes to fair trade producers and farmers, giving the consumer more information and confidence in their ethical product choice," continues Geffner. The official statement of the NARB regarding this decision can be found on their website, http://www.asrcreviews.org/2012/09/narb-recommends-fair-trade-usa-modify-composite-products-seal- to-better-inform-consumers-of-fair-trade-sourced-content/

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Fair World Project (FWP) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote organic certification and fair trade practices as well as transparent third-party certification of producers, manufacturers and products, domestically and abroad. Through consumer education and advocacy, FWP supports dedicated fair trade producers and brands, and insists on integrity in use of the term "fair trade" in certification, labeling and marketing. FWP publishes a bi-annual publication entitled For a Better World and sponsors regular Fair World Tours of regions with emerging fair trade projects to highlight their role in surrounding communities. For more information, visit: http://www.fairworldproject.org.

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