As a Fairtrade certifier, how strict are you when it comes to violations of the Fairtrade Standards?
JB: We want to strike a balance between supportive and strict. We certainly take violations or non-conformities very seriously; however, we also view it as an opportunity for improvement. When a non-conformity is found, organisations must propose and implement corrective measures which are then checked by FLOCERT. The goal is for the organisaton to self-develop and ultimately end with a better and fairer business. With that being said, if the organisation does not take adequate corrective actions or in cases where major compliance criteria have been violated or of deliberate fraud, we will suspend or decertify.
An audit takes three days on average. Who checks Fairtrade compliance the other 362 days in the year?
JB: Our customers participate in a voluntary standard system and welcome cooperation with FLOCERT to become more sustainable and fairer. Nevertheless, to ensure we have a comprehensive and accurate picture of what is happening on the ground even after an auditor has left, we do have tools in place. For example, we have a reporting platform that allows us to monitor product flow, and financial transactions in-between audits. Another is our allegation reporting channels: we have in place a whistleblowing system that allows anyone, whether employee, community member or other person, to raise an allegation against an organisation via -email, our website, or WhatsApp. In addition, we also do unannounced audits. In 2019, out of the 3,300 audits FLOCERT carried out, 6% were unannounced.
FLOCERT auditors are regional experts, speak local languages and live well embedded in their communities. How can you trust that they are impartial?
JB: Our auditors are experts in their field, and they receive thorough and continuous training. On top of this, we have additional measures in place to further ensure impartiality. For example, we have a rotation basis which ensures that no auditor is on the same customer more than 3 times in a row. There's also full transparency in terms of documentation including records of the auditor fees that are paid directly by FLOCERT to the auditor. And we have a very robust appeals and allegations system which enables anyone to complain about an auditor's behaviour.
Jannis Bellinghausen is FLOCERT’s Regional Manager for Europe & North America and the Deputy Director of Operations. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family & friends. When time allows for it, he is active in doing different kind of sports.