Over the last year, businesses had to navigate the financial and operational challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. How did FLOCERT address the needs of customers, stakeholders and staff?
KW: Frequent communication was key in handling this pandemic situation. In order to keep a constant line of communication, we regularly and proactively communicated with our customers, stakeholders and internal staff. For customers, our primary goal was to ensure that they could continue with their Fairtrade production and trading. For this, we needed to adapt our auditing methodologies in alignment with the Fairtrade Standards. We also introduced flexible fee payment plans, which aim to help customers who are unable to reach banks during lockdowns, as well a multilingual WhatsApp channel for reporting any allegation against a Fairtrade-certified organisation. These measures were well received by our customers. In addition, the Fairtrade system mobilised funds to support the producers and FLOCERT directly contributed by donating to Fairtrade Producer Networks. As they have even closer local proximity, we believe this was the right way to support. Internally, the management team did a lot of listening to identify adequate measures to support the staff. These included offering trainings, counselling and a Corona bonus to support our employees in their new working environment at home.
Was it difficult to keep up employee spirit and motivation?
KW: Not at all, crisis brought out the best in FLOCERT employees! In operations, staff was quick to adapt auditing routines. Our initial pilots taught us so much and joint efforts allowed for timely starting of remote audits, in the beginning for traders and shortly thereafter for producers. Also, staff working in the supporting functions stayed focussed and adapted processes adequately to ensure efficient working in the new remote environment.
In Chinese, the word ‘crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity – Where do you see FLOCERT in five years?
KW: In five years' time, FLOCERTIANs will still be working on our vision "Fair global trade everyone can believe in". This month, we have just finished designing our FLOCERT Strategy 2021-2025. In 2026, we will:
• still be the key strategic partner for Fairtrade!
• still be one of the most trusted assurance bodies in the world!
• have made global supply chains more transparent to the benefit of both, our certification customers as well as our stakeholders' customers!
The FLOCERT team and I are looking forward to harnessing opportunities and tackling challenges along the way together with our Fairtrade partners.
Katharina Wagner is FLOCERT’s Managing Director. When she is not in the office, she loves pampering the roses in her garden.