Fairtrade International is a certifier association that prides itself on improving the lives of farmers and workers across multiple sectors. They also specifically focus on embedding gender equitable policies in the farms that they work with. This commitment to gender equality across their business aligns with Step 1: Embed GRDD in policies.
Fairtrade International’s Protection and Safeguarding Policy and Code of Conduct is a robust policy that is just one of the many that Fairtrade embeds throughout their whole business. This is one of the ways they commit to gender equality, increasing women’s participation and empowering women and girls. Fairtrade also shows how, through supporting women’s economic and mental resilience, they also ensure the growth and sustainability of business.
Fairtrade International’s various policies aim to address gender inequality in their producer organisations. The gender-specific requirements include:
- No discrimination on the basis of gender or marital status.
- Zero tolerance of behaviour that is sexually intimidating, abusive or exploitative.
- No pregnancy testing when recruiting workers.
- Programmes to support disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as women.
- Developing a robust gender policy, over time specific to the producers.
This is further encouraged in producer organisations as seen in Ecuadorian flower farms where Fairtrade International takes the above requirements and updates them in order to support the specific needs of these women, for example anti-sexual harassment and other forms of violence
“Fairtrade International’s various policies aim to address gender inequality.”
A 2020 study on the three main standards in the Ecuadorian flower sector found that Fairtrade International has “the most far-reaching gender standards.” Their gender lens on their internal and external activities has bolstered the workers’ wellbeing, job security, equal wages and working conditions. Embedded maternity leave and access to childcare facilities are also significant achievements for Fairtrade as in rural Ecuador these amenities are largely absent from women workers’ lives.
“[Fairtrade] bolsters the wellbeing and rights of female workers in and beyond the workplace.”
– L.T Raynolds Director of the Centre for Fair & Alternative Trade at Colorado State University
The key achievements that Fairtrade International has embedded can be seen in these three areas:
- More women have control over their finances with 1/3 of them jointly managing them and 38% being solely responsible.
- Women’s increased awareness of their legal and labour rights, company benefits and polices (including anti-harassment and other forms of violence protection), grievance mechanisms and self-determination.
- Increased leadership, accounting and project management skills opportunities.
- Paid maternity leave and child-care and pre-school facilities on all Fairtrade flower farms.
- Pregnant and nursing women have more safety protection e.g. They are not allowed to fumigate greenhouses or engage in hazardous work.
- Women are proportionately represented on Fairtrade Premium Committees which decide on how to spend the Premium.
- Premium projects resulted in: 96% women accessing educational programmes, 60% took out low-interest loans and 89% have used medical services.
- On two Fairtrade farms the subsidised laundry facilities reduces the amount of work women have to do outside of work hours.
Wages and working conditions
- Equal pay for all workers.
- Stricter than Ecuadorian law on labour abuse in flower sector meaning written contracts, punctual pay and legal entitlements such as voluntary and time-and-a-half overtime.
- 78% of the women surveyed reported they far preferred working on Fairtrade certified farms than previous employment.
Application to other enterprises
Fairtrade International has made great gender-specific progress by truly embedding gender equality into their policies of the farms they work with and therefore fulfilling Step 1 of the Gender-Responsive Due Diligence process. Yet, the 2020 study still found some room for improvement. Namely women are still earning lower wages even with the instilled equal pay and Fairtrade International has not carried out gender-specific risk assessments. GRDD Step 2 would be the next step for Fairtrade to further improve on their commitment. By following all of the steps of Gender-Responsive Due Diligence, they, and any businesses and companies, can go further to ensure that gender inequality is mitigated.