It's two years since we launched our reporting platform, Fairtrace, to improve assurance and credibility in Fairtrade certified supply chains. Within Fairtrace, all members of a supply chain report their traded volumes and verify and confirm those of their direct trading partners. We call this a virtual handshake.
For us, developing this new platform and then getting several thousands of users on board, has been a highly educative ride. We realised that many of our customers needed technical support to get them started in the platform. So we established a team fully dedicated to provide customer support and created simple guides and held a series of webinars to help customers onboard. We also used their feedback and our initial learnings to improve our design and usability. I believe that this facilitated the quick adoption of this technology and reporting responsibility, which is a new but valuable effort for many of our customers.
Today, all 5700 odd Fairtrade customers, from producers who sell their produce, to traders at the end of the supply chain, use Fairtrace. Their Fairtrace activities vary depending on their role in the supply chain. For example, a producer checks and verifies their buyers' transactions; a trader paying the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium reports the exact price and premium paid in each transaction.
We use this Fairtrace data to improve our tools and make sure certified organisations comply with the Fairtrade Standards. Our customers meanwhile get a stronger guarantee that everybody in their supply chain complies with the Fairtrade Standards, and that the Fairtrade label on their products is robust and credible. To me, the greatest benefit of Fairtrace is that the information entered raises the level of assurance and helps increase shoppers' trust in Fairtrade, as a label they can believe in.
Innovative assurance mechanisms
The virtual handshake between trading partners adds a new dimension to our assurance. By using the Fairtrace information we're starting to develop extra assurance mechanisms, most recently with a new automated alerts functionality and a dedicated channel for raising allegations.
The automated alerts system, launched in May 2020, identifies potential non-compliances based on the data reported in Fairtrace. This enables us to continuously monitor the compliance of transactions almost in real time – in my view a great boost to our assurance approach. The alerts focus on critical issues requiring immediate attention, such as transactions missing a valid Fairtrade product certificate etc.
We've also set up a dedicated channel within Fairtrace for users to raise an allegation if they suspect a business partner isn't complying with the Fairtrade Standards. Confidentiality is guaranteed since the info entered will only be visible to FLOCERT and not to the business partner. The details provided will then be handled by our Credibility Assurance unit, in charge of allegations within FLOCERT.
So I consider Fairtrace a digital complement to our certification scheme, and I can see that this is especially important now, when COVID-19 means it is often not possible for us to carry out physical audits.
All this lays the foundations for more improvements ahead – I guess Fairtrace will always be a living, growing tool. And I think the current pandemic highlights the need for us to stay agile and leverage our digital potential. We're currently looking into ways to use the data to design a new type of audit (data-driven or digital) to complement Fairtrade's range of assurance tools. We also plan to link up different datasets beyond Fairtrace, such as data visualisation dashboards flagging unfair trading practices or monitoring regional trends and developments.
Interested in the principle behind Fairtrace? Check out our page on all things Fairtrace including a video on what it is and how it works. Find out more here.
Ruth Audera is FLOCERT’s Fairtrace Programme Manager. She also really likes maps and can spend hours drawing up routes – quite successfully, as she is the unofficial guide of an unofficial hiking group that never gets lost too badly.