FLOCERT celebrates 10th anniversary

31 March 2014

FLOCERT was established ten years ago with the objective to ensure credibility of the Fairtrade label. Under the guiding principle ‘certification for development’ FLOCERT set off to empower small farmers through Fairtrade certification. When a handful of people began putting this into practice, little did they know that they would create today’s leading global provider of Fairtrade certification services! As we celebrate ten years of FLOCERT, join us for a brief tour of the company’s history.

Happy Birthday candles

The early beginnings

In 1988 the first product with a Fairtrade Label was sold in the Netherlands. In 1997, the various European and North American fair trade movements and initiatives formed one unifying umbrella organization – Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO, today “Fairtrade International”). The new body set about to harmonize global standards and certification. However, it was not until six years later, in November 2003, that FLOCERT took up operations as an independently governed subsidiary of FLO. The objective was to separate the standard-setting from the verifying organization. Up until today this split has proven to be essential to ensure independence, quality and credibility of the Fairtrade certification system. Headed by Rüdiger Meyer, who had previously been product manager with FLO, a small team of pioneers started building up a professional and reliable certification system for Fairtrade.

“We really did a lot of pioneer work at the beginning. I am proud to work for a credible and competent certification body which helps reduce poverty and supports the autonomy of producers in the developing countries.”

(Wendy, who has been organizing and carrying out trader certification since FLO-CERT was founded and is today a certification manager)

2003 – 2007: Building the system

In its first years, FLOCERT focused strongly on developing auditing and certification processes focusing on the specific realities of small farmers and the particularities of their products, locations, organizational setups and trading practices. In parallel, the young company started building up a global network of auditors who visit our customers on-site and check if they operate in accordance with the relevant compliance criteria. The services FLOCERT offered struck a nerve. Within the first four years, the company opened offices in Costa Rica, India and South Africa and the number of employees grew to around 50. In 2007, the initial work paid off: FLO-CERT became the first social certification body worldwide to obtain an ISO 65 accreditation for its Fairtrade certification services. ISO 65(EN 45011) is the leading quality norm for organizations operating a product certification system. Since 2007 the accreditation has been renewed constantly, and today includes our certification activities in all regional offices.

2008 – 2013: Establishing the system

In the last years, we have focused a lot on improving our systems, working towards making service delivery more efficient and customer-friendly: In 2009, we introduced the information management system “Ecert”, which links our international certification team with our auditors and customers. This has significantly facilitated communication and service delivery – response times were reduced, and information captured and shared more easily. Through the introduction of SCORE in 2011, we went a step further in customizing our services offering now the certification of individual development plans within the Fairtrade framework. Now, specific producers’ needs are better reflected in the certification system and they are given more options to prioritize certain areas for development. SCORE also introduced the Permission to Trade for producers, which means that producers can participate in the Fairtrade system earlier and benefit from it quicker. In parallel, we built up expertise in giving more support to traders: By certifying their entire supply chain against the Fairtrade standard we offer them a unique tool for their risk management. Recently, we have introduced further verification services for increased transparency in global supply chains. Thus, we can provide traders with a centralized view of their overall supply chain and assess working conditions at each step of the chain.

“Connecting remote regions can be quite difficult. But we have managed to establish stable connections, even if our colleagues are in a rural area in Tanzania.”

(Till, head of IT, who has been working to meet the challenges of a worldwide IT system since FLOCERT’s beginning)

Today, FLOCERT has around 80 employees and over 100 auditors, as well as more than 3,000 customers from all over the world. Besides Fairtrade certification, we also provide other services supporting the Fairtrade vision and mission – like helping companies in developing their own code of conduct, or conducting water and carbon footprints to help organizations shape their environmental strategies. For CEO Rüdiger Meyer, these new services are just one of the steps FLOCERT is taking to be prepared for the future:

“Seeing the positive impact of our work at our customers and also within the Fairtrade network is very satisfying, and we are happy that the high quality of our certification work has led to Fairtrade International confirming FLOCERT’s position as global certifier of Fairtrade until 2020. We will not rest on our laurels, but are currently preparing for further innovation – when it comes to customer satisfaction, internal efficiencies, and our service portfolio. I am excited to find out where the next ten years at FLOCERT in Fairtrade will lead us!”

“I am proud of the unique audit and certification system we have established. Based on high credibility and transparent processes, it is brought to live by the people working for FLO-CERT who are dedicated to the Fairtrade system and standards.”

(Ose, who has been with FLO and FLO-CERT for 16 years and is today senior project manager)

Farmer on coffee farm in Mexico - photo taken by Stefan Lechner

Next story: FLOCERT’s ISO 65 accreditation successfully renewed

FLOCERT’s ISO 65 accreditation for Fairtrade certification has been renewed during a recent audit.

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