Do we debate Fairtrade (Ft) labeling and marketing in the U.S.? No, not so much – at least not compared to Britain, where it is something of a blood sport (some links below). It may be somewhat unfair to lump Ft in with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), but that’s the direction in which I’m presently leaning – especially since I started researching issues related to TransFair USA’s imminent launch of a pilot factory standard for clothes.
Nestlé strategy with Kit Kat – the largest-selling candy bar in the UK – is to spend less than a million dollars annually for a Ft premium to cocoa growers so that all KK’s sold in the UK + Ireland get the Ft logo. This amount is less than 2% of the advertising budget for Nescafe/UK and, indeed, should be viewed as part of that advertising spending.
Cocoa strategy, then, closely follows Nestlé behavior vis a vis sourcing ethical coffee (0.2% of total purchases). Why bother? There’s an opinion from Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action here: “In evaluating Nestlé's motives, we shouldn't forget that the Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, has said that Nestlé should only support charities if it will benefit his shareholders and the reasoning here [Kit Kat] will be the same.” Many other relevant views expressed here in 2007 BBC magazine story: How fair is Fairtrade?
For comments on a fine opinion piece in the Guardian 10 days ago, see Andrew Chambers’ “Not So Fair Trade.” Just yesterday, Prof. Daniel Jaffee (Washington State University) cleared up what he saw as a misrepresentation of his position – very interesting (& includes this insight: “If TNCs such as Nestlé and Dole are allowed to dabble in fair trade at token proportions of their overall volume - without being held to firm minimum percentage levels and being forced to raise those volumes steadily over time -fair trade runs the risk of serving to sanitize the image of corporations with poor human rights records, of becoming a “fair-washing” device...”)