ILO participates in the 15th World Fair Trade Summit in Lima, Peru

The ILO highlighted the changes in the world of work and underlined the synergies between cooperatives and fair trade towards improving livelihoods of small-scale producers.

News | 30 September 2019
Participants at the, WFTO International Fair Trade Summit
In recent years, the ILO has conducted a series of studies and meetings on promoting trade between producer cooperatives and consumer cooperatives (C2C trade) as a means of improving income and working conditions of small-scale producers in the Global South. This includes a rapid assessment on cooperative competitiveness and potential for trade in selected Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, and a one-day meeting in June 2018 with over 25 key stakeholders from the cooperative movement and fair and ethical trade initiatives interested and involved in C2C trade.

Ms Simel Esim, Head, Cooperatives Unit, Internationla Labour Organization
As a follow up to this initiative, the ILO participated in the 15th WFTO International Fair Trade Summit held in Lima, Peru from 17 to 19 September 2019. Under the theme ‘innovations for a fair future’, the summit highlighted innovations across fair trade initiatives, including responses to climate change, use of impact investment, public procurement schemes, and online and social marketing methods. The Summit brought together more than 300 participants from fair trade businesses and associations (mostly WFTO members), development cooperation agencies, and local governments interested in supporting the fair trade initiative.

ILO COOP Unit Manager, Ms. Simel Esim, made a keynote speech at the opening session on the first day. She reflected on key trends that are transforming the world of work (i.e. climate change, technological development, demographic change, and globalization) and the relevance of cooperative and wider social and solidarity economy (SSE) enterprises towards advancing decent work in the changing world of work. Among the other keynote speakers were: Ms. Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD; Professor Juan Torres at Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina; Mr. Dario Soto Abril, CEO of Fairtrade International; and Mr. Erinch Sahan, CEO of WFTO.

Participants of the ILO and WFTO workshop
During the Summit the ILO and WFTO co-organized a workshop on ‘Mobilizing cooperation among cooperatives and fair trade’ as one of four elective tracks. Around 30 people participated in the workshop and discussed challenges and opportunities in working with cooperatives in the context of fair trade. Key challenges identified in the working groups include the lack of an enabling environment for cooperative enterprises and the lack of access to market information for small-scale producer cooperatives (e.g. quantity and quality requirements, and design trends). Following the working group discussions a series of examples were presented to provide inspirations on how to address some of these challenges.

  • Biocoop (France) : A multi-stakeholder cooperative of over 560 retail shops; 3,600 farms and 20 producer associations; 397 employees; and 3 consumer associations that promote organic and fair trade products
  • Coop Group (UK) : A consumer cooperative promoting fair trade labelled products and inspiring suppliers and other retailers to support fair trade
  • Alter Trade Japan (Japan) : A trading company set up by consumer cooperatives, social businesses and civil society organizations to enhance ‘people-to-people trade’ between consumers in the North and producers in the South
  • Altromercato (Italy) : A consortium of 105 member cooperatives and organizations that sells and promotes fair trade products from over 170 producer cooperatives and other organizations in 42 countries.
Presentation by the Coop Group (UK)
Mr. Danilo Salerno, Director of Cooperatives of the Americas, ICA’s regional office, also made a presentation on the involvement of the cooperative movement in fair trade. During the Summit, a workshop on ‘Social and solidarity economy (SSE) and fair trade’ was also organized jointly by WFTO, Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS) and Latin American SSE networks and organizations.

The workshops identified that there are strong complementarities between cooperative and SSE enterprise models and fair trade that need to be better understood in order to improve collaboration. While cooperatives and SSE enterprises help organize small-scale producers, fair trade initiatives help secure market links for them. Conducting joint research, organizing a more extensive meeting and developing collaborative projects were among the ideas identified for the way forward.