Fair trade is firmly established in France. Based on fairer remuneration for producers in exchange for compliance with very strict social and environmental specifications, it is showing strong growth in France. Sales jumped 11% last year and exceeded the 2 billion euro mark for the first time.
In its beginnings, fair trade only concerned sectors importing products from emerging countries. now, it extends to many “made in France” products. Local trade is also affected by issues related to the fair remuneration of producers and respect for the environment.
These fair trade products and products produced in France are identifiable on store shelves thanks to the labels affixed to their packaging. In application of the Climate and Resilience Law of 2021, all companies claiming to manufacture fair and local products must comply with the specifications of at least one certifier. To date, seven labels structure this sector.
#1. Agri-Ethics France
Agri-Ethique was created in 2013 by an agricultural cooperative in Vendée, Cavac, during a period of high cereal price volatility. “At that time, society became aware that the farms in our regions were threatened. Producers are struggling to get paid and cover their production costs,” explain the creators of the label on their website. They imagine a new economic model that is “fairer, more coherent, capable of creating a link between all the stakeholders”.
In 2018, Agri-Ethic became strictly speaking a fair trade label, “structured and organized to guarantee farmers’ income, preserve jobs in our regions and support eco-responsible societal and environmental practices”. This label, controlled by the certifier Certipaq, now covers 39 sectors, from cereals to milk, including pulses, eggs, meat, honey and fresh fruit.
#2. Organic Fair Trade in France
Bio Equitable was born in May 2020 from the meeting between farmer groups, companies in the organic sector and specialized distributors. “These different actors wanted to implement an independent system for labeling fair trade organic sectors by giving a preponderant place to the collective organization of producers”, explains the Fair Trade France collective.
Nearly 5,000 farms have this label. They are federated in 30 agricultural groups and associated with 40 companies in the organic sector. They offer milk, meat, fruit and vegetables, cereals and legumes, aromatic and medicinal plants, eggs. “Only food products are certified at this stage, the label has recently been opened to cosmetic products”, specifies the collective.
#3. Organic French fair trade
Fair Trade Bio Français is a label launched by the National Federation of Organic Agriculture (FNAB) in February 2020. Its objective: to make commitments that go beyond the European organic label. “This label guarantees the consumer of French organic products and farmers a remunerative price and fair contracts,” explains the FNAB.
The first products bearing the green flower logo on a white background were marketed by the frozen food chain Picard. “This collaboration was initially made around a range of four organic and local vegetables in the South-West region, then extended to the South-East around a range of three new references”, specifies the federation.
Biopartenaire was originally an association created in 2002 by pioneer entrepreneurs in the organic sector. In 2018, they developed a label adapted to French sectors, based on a reference system called FiABLE: Filières Attestées Biologiques, Loyales et Equitables. When affixed to packaging, this label certifies that the product contains at least 50% of ingredients from partnerships between farmers, processing companies, distributors, who all adhere to the values of the association. The remaining 50% of ingredients must be ingredients labeled by other organizations.
The Biopartenaire association now has more than sixty members. As for the label, it concerns at this stage more than 850 references in specialized stores: cereals, aromatic plants, dairy products, vegetables.
#5. fair for life
Fair For Life is a certification program for fair trade created in 2006. This label applies to agricultural raw materials but also to cosmetic products, textiles or craft products. Regarding food, the Fair for Life logo requires that products contain at least 80% raw materials from fair trade.
To date, more than 1,500 French producers, united in seven groups, benefit from the Fair For Life label in various food sectors: milk, aromatic plants, fruits and vegetables, wine.
#6. Max Havelaar France
It is probably the best-known label in France. Max Havelaar certification has been deployed since the 1990s in international sectors. In stores, the label is visible in the coffee, tea or chocolate departments. In 2021, Max Havelaar France has decided to focus on the most fragile French wheat and milk producers. “All producers in the world deserve a fair price! Whether they are from France or elsewhere, we must secure those who feed us and tell consumers that,” stresses Blaise Desbordes, general manager of Max Havelaar France.
For its first “made in France” product certifications, the group joined forces with the Maîtres Laitiers du Cotentin cooperative. Two references – a vanilla fromage blanc and a sweet fromage blanc – will be marketed in early June 2022 in supermarkets (Super U, Carrefour) and distributed in collective restaurants (hospitals, retirement homes, schools, etc.).
#7. Fair tourism
Fair tourism is originally a label of the Association for Fair and Solidarity Tourism (ATES), founded in 2006 by travel professionals. The objective is to “make travel a lever for development and solidarity with local populations and actors”. In 2014, Ates created Fair Tourism to offer “information and guarantees for more responsible travel” around the world.
This label was extended in 2019 to tourism structures in France (accommodation, restaurants, cultural sites, etc.), with specific specifications in France. Labeled operators must, for example, go “beyond French labor law, both socially and economically”. They must also commit to reducing their water and energy consumption, recycling waste and reducing their carbon emissions. They must also offer their customers ecological and/or fair trade products. To date, 26 tour operators, one accommodation structure and one activity provider in France have been awarded the Fair Trade Tourism label.