’t Goylaan 15 3525 AA Utrecht The Netherlands T +31 (0)30-2759450 F +31 (0)30-2720194 firstname.lastname@example.org www.solidaridadnetwork.org Chamber of Commerce 51756811
To the Solidar NGO Network
Utrecht, 26 of September 2011.
Dear Friends, Please allow me to react on your campaign to pressure Nestlé to accept the fair trade label for their Nespresso brand. I do think that we as NGO community have to discuss and see if this type of pressure is justified. Solidaridad had initiated fair trade labelling by launching the first label for Max Havelaar coffee onto the Dutch market in 1988 and fair trade bananas in 1996. At this moment, we are preparing the introduction of fair trade gold on different European markets. Our comments are based on a long lasting experience. I think that at least three questions are relevant: First: did you consult any of Nespresso’s suppliers on their opinion in this matter? Are they really interested in becoming fair trade certified farmers? I think I can assume that you haven’t. Well, we did! Over the past two weeks, we’ve been consulting several Nespresso suppliers. Farmers from different regions in the world. We concluded that a vast majority doesn’t see any added value and fears the high costs of fair trade certification and the bureaucracy of FLO. Secondly, will a fair trade label improve the practices of the farmers and will their sustainability be increased through certification? I seriously doubt whether this will be the case. Nespresso’s AAA programme has to be classified as a best practice in the coffee sector. It is based on smart and sustainable land use and farmers really benefit from the programme. The cooperation with Rainforest Alliance is an important factor and has highly contributed to the quality and social and environmental impact of the company code for Nespresso.
Why do other NGOs pressure a front runner like Nespresso and why don't they focus on the laggards in the sector? Of course, fair trade could benefit from the high reputation of the Nespresso brand; but to me this seems to be a hidden agenda, which does not justify this type of campaigning. I think that the Nespresso brand is a very innovative concept, in terms of branding, marketing, technical innovations and sourcing. The concept has stimulated the appreciation of a high quality product and the growth of a specialty market for those farmers who were able to improve the quality of their coffees. These innovations are in best interest of the farmers; they benefit from better prices, farmer support programmes for good agricultural practices and a long lasting relationship with Nestlé as the buyer of their coffee. For me, the final question is whether the fair trade movement, or in this case more specific, the FLO system of certification can be a valuable partner for this type of innovative companies: I’m afraid that it isn’t. The FLO system still has the same main characteristics as when it started at the end of the eighties, when Solidaridad designed the basic principles. But time has changed. What do we have to offer Nespresso? A fair trade system that is too expensive for all players in the chain; that is complex and bureaucratic in its procedures. A system that is controlled based while we need value based systems now. There is too much division within the movement, as the decision of Fair Trade USA to follow its own path recently demonstrated. There is discussion and doubt on the real impact of the FLO system on social and ecological improvements, on whether the system really contributes to the urgently needed professionalism under smallholders in order to improve yields and quality and to reduce costs. Especially on these aspects, the Nespresso programme could be a challenging concept to learn from. So, let’s show more humility and let’s accept that producers will often gain much more by selling specialty brands of their product than they will from adopting the fair trade label. Let Nespresso do its work; fair trade can not contribute much. Let’s see how we can innovate and learn from the best practices of others. Best regards,
Nico Roozen ED Solidaridad Network
Nico Roozen, executive director of the Solidaridad network, wrote an open letter to the Solidar NGO network about their campaign against Nes...