Coming Clean Campaign
Coming Clean

Stop TransFair's “FairWash” of Personal Care!

OCA and Dr. Bronner's File Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Complaint Against
TransFair and Fair Trade Cheater Brands Avon and Hain Celestial

Click here to read the Complaint | Click here to send a Letter to the FTC | Click here to send a Letter to TransFair

International trade has failed to deliver a better standard of living to many impoverished farmers and workers in the developing world, where unfair and exploitative prices, wages and working conditions prevail, trapping millions in poverty.

TransFair licenses its seal for a fee on products and brands that have as little as 2% fair trade content.
FTC Seal

In response, the “Fair Trade” movement, fueled by hundreds of retailers, NGOs, mission-driven for-profit “Alternative Trading Organizations” and conscious consumers, has established criteria and standards for fair pricing, wages and working conditions in farming and processing of diverse commodities and products. Products certified to these standards empower farmers and workers, and their families and communities, enabling them to improve their lives and livelihoods.

One fair trade standards and certification organization is the Fair Labeling Organization (FLO), which has developed fair trade standards and certifies producer groups that comply with these standards. TransFair is the US arm of FLO, and receives a “licensing fee” from companies that use the TransFair logo on products that are certified or contain fair trade ingredients.

Another fair trade standards and certification system is the Institute for Market Ecology’s (IMO) Fair for Life program. Fully committed fair trade companies including Equal Exchange, Cooperative Coffees, Theo Chocolate and Dr. Bronner’s have chosen to use IMO rather than FLO/TransFair for several reasons. In particular, IMO does not allow use of its seal on products and brands that are not majority fair trade. Further, Fair for Life also broadened the scope of fair trade to allow for the fair trade certification of virtually all agricultural commodities produced in developing countries if fair trade conditions are met along the entire value chain.

The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is a US membership organization that accepts only dedicated fair trade “Alternative Trading Organizations,” and screens applicants against rigorous fair trade criteria. Fully committed fair trade companies such as Equal Exchange, Co-Op Coffees, Guayaki and Dr. Bronner’s are proud members.

While TransFair has done an admirable job in promoting the concept of fair trade and broadening its visibility, TransFair has permitted its certification to be used in ways that mislead consumers and has attempted to claim exclusive use of the term “fair trade” in ways that unfairly hurt other certifiers and undermine the fair trade movement.

TransFair licenses its seal for a fee on products and brands that have as little as 2% fair trade content. This has allowed large brands to present themselves as “Fair Trade” by selling a token product line extension that has been allowed by TransFair to prominently feature its “Fair Trade Certified” logo yet contains only minimal amount of fair trade ingredients. TransFair itself promotes personal care brands with small FT line extensions with minimal FT content as if they are dedicated fair trade brands. TransFair should instead be focused on marketing brands and products that are dedicated to FT with meaningful FT content. A dollar of TransFair“s marketing should maximize sales of brands and products that do right by FT farmers, not use minimal amounts for a fairwash courtesy of TransFair.

The consumer deception and conflation problem caused by allowing the front-panel use of the look-alike logo for “made with” products is best illustrated by analogy to certified organic products: what if the certified organic USDA logo that appears on products with 95%+ content of certified organic ingredients, was used in identical fashion on products that are only 20% or even 2% organic, the only difference being a barely readable small ingredient descriptor below the organic logo.

Fair trade is a movement not a brand and its promise and reach is much bigger than that of TransFair or any single certifier or other fair trade organization. Many in the movement feel TransFair needs to be checked, and consumers educated about alternatives, in particular IMO's Fair for Life certification program. To prevent TransFair from monopolizing and abusing the term “Fair Trade”, the Organic Consumers Association and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps have filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. It details the issues and problems with TransFair, along with illustrative “fair trade cheater brands” like Avon/Mark and Hain Celestial/Queen Helene.

TransFair has also used strategies aimed at monopolizing the field of certification of fair trade products in the US. TransFair has trademarked the term “Fair Trade Certified” and incorrectly represents itself as the “only fair trade certifier in the US.” Recently TransFair has changed its name to “Fair Trade USA” and has applied for a trademark for that name and associated logo, in an attempt to perpetuate the myth that TransFair is the only fair trade certifier in the American fair trade movement. Imagine an organic certifier re-naming itself “Organic USA” and proceeding to aggressively promote itself as the only organic certifier in the US.

The OCA in coordination with prominent fair trade companies has launched a campaign to organize concerned consumers, retailers, NGOs and mission-based companies to protest TransFair's attempt to trademark the term “Fair Trade USA” as well as “Fair Trade Certified“.

Click here to read the Complaint

Click here to send a Letter to the FTC

Click here to send a Letter to TransFair