FAQ

Please find below FAQs to following subjects



General Features of For Life/ Fair for Life

What kinds of products does the certification cover?

Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification is available for a wide range of natural products, e.g. for all agricultural products (like oils, herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables, etc.), wild crafted products, seafood, livestock products, cut flowers, handicrafts, cotton and textiles. Because we do not use a product-specific standard for certification, certification of your entire assortment of raw materials or any multi-ingredient and finished products may be possible if they originate from certified fair trade sources.
You can also choose to be certified only as a Socially Responsible company, without product certification to demonstrate your clients that your entire company meets high social standards.


What are the main characteristics of the different certifications offered in the Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Programme?

The Fair for Life Social & FairTrade Programme essentially consists of two certification options: “Fair for Life” - Social & Fair Trade Certification and “For Life” - Social Responsibility Certification.
Fair for Life Certification covers fair working conditions and social responsibility as well as fair trade relationship including fair prices and a fair trade development premium. It is restricted to companies that can focus on improving the position of marginalised groups by fair trade, but can be offered worldwide, i.e. also for “domestic fair trade”. The scope of For Life certification is good working conditions and social responsibility only.
Another option is that sometimes companies approach us with their already developed internal social or fair trade code and would like for us to act as third party auditor (Individual Performance Evaluation). For more information please click here .


Who already holds Fair for Life certification?
You may see a listing of currently certified operations (not those who are still in progress) by visiting the Fair for Life certified operators page on this website. Examples include olive oil from the Middle East, coconut oil from Asia and Africa, palm oil from Africa, and apples from small-scale farmers in remote areas of South America.


Who checks if an operator respects the rules of the Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Programme?

The audits at producer operations as well as handlers are carried out by an external party: the Swiss certification body IMOswiss AG. IMO is a leading provider for international inspection and certification services for organic, ecological and social standards. To ensure that the audits and the certification decisions are taken in an independent and impartial manner, IMOswiss AG is ISO17065 accredited through the Swiss Accreditation Service (SAS). For further information please click here.


Do I have to be certified organic to get Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification?
You do not need to be certified organic to apply for Fair fir Life certification, but if you are already organic/ good practice certified it will be easier to add fair trade certification on top of your present procedures (e.g. Internal Control System, product flow management, etc.). Also, if you don’t have any organic or other certification that confirms compliance with environmental minimum good practices, you will need to fulfil additional integrated production criteria ( see Module 9 for Agricultural producer operations without an organic/ good practice certification ).


I buy from producers who are not smallholders; is certification still open to me?
Yes, the Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification has been designed to cover genuine fair trade efforts and initiatives in various production systems, including producers contracted by private companies (contract production), as well as plantations or manufacturing and trading operations. The larger and more commercial the supply structures, the more the applicant must demonstrate of the fair trade focus on marginalized social groups, high social commitment, own efforts towards workers welfare, and community benefits.


Can we obtain a Social & FairTrade Certification for our fair trade production project in the US or another industrialised country?
For Life- Social Responsibility Certification may be a good option to demonstrate that all your/ your producer’s workers enjoy excellent working conditions and are treated fairly (which includes also migrant and other temporary workers).
Fair for Life - Social & Fair Trade Certification of pioneering fair trade projects , in particular small scale farmers cooperatives in the US or Europe is possible, but will require a well prepared specifically developed fair trade approach to be demonstrated by the applicant.


What if my suppliers are certified organic by other certifiers than IMO?
IMO offers an international network. We can certainly find a well-adapted solution for your particular supply situation. Depending on the organic certification body in origin and the location of the supplier, we may consider cooperating with the other certification body's auditor, at least for follow-up visits to keep costs reasonable. A few organic certifiers have also started their own social or fair trade certification programmes, some of which we will accept as equivalent (if listed in Module 1, Annex 2) or can assess individually for your supplier’s case based on audit reports.


Does Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification also cover environmental aspects?
Fair for Life assesses performance in some key environmental aspects such as water and energy conservation, ecosystem protection and waste management are evaluated for all operations worldwide. Additionally, certified producer operations must demonstrate responsible production practices. This means that they must either be organic, UTZ Certified, Rainforest Alliance or GlobalG.A.P. certified, or must undergo additional evaluation of the Fair for Life Additional Integrated Production criteria.


What are the main differences between Fair for Life FairTrade and other schemes?
Please click here for an overview about the characteristics of the "Fair for Life" system.


What is the position of Fair for Life regarding certification of plantations?
Please click here to read the statement of Fair for Life on plantation certification.


Application and Certification Process

I think For Life/ Fair for Life Certification may be right for my company; how do I determine the steps needed to get certification?
All steps needed to get certification are outlined in the section become certified of this website. The application process starts with filling in the application form and sending it to the certification body IMOswiss AG in Switzerland. This step does not yet oblige you to continue with the application. If you have a complex supply chain and even after the webinars wonder which units must apply for certification, it might be best to contact us with description of your supply chain and we will guide you which certifications or registrations will be needed for different actors. Please feel free to contact us under info@fairforlife.org.


How much does the certification cost?
Certification costs vary depending on the size and complexity of your operation/ supply chain, which certification(s) you apply for, the location of your operation and of producers (the local costs and travel time), and whether or not you are already certified organic or have another good practice certification. If you are certified organic/ good practice by IMO, it reduces the cost of fair trade certification, as the audit can normally be combined. For sample cost estimations have a look at some calculation examples by clicking here . However, the cost for each certification is calculated based on multiple factors, so in order to get an exact offer, you need to provide us with as much details as possible by sending the relevant application form. An offer will be prepared after review of the details. You will then be asked to confirm your application and approve the estimated costs by signing the offer and the certification contract.


How long does the certification process take?
The length of time for attaining certification depends on how long it will take you to meet the certification criteria. We suggest you obtain a copy of the programme for certification and use this as an internal training document. The programme is easy to use and you can score yourself to have an idea where you will stand for certification. After confirming your application for certification, we organise the audit (typically within 2-3 months after the confirmed application). After the audit you will be informed if any further action or documents are required to finalise the report, and once all information is complete the results are reviewed in the certification office and the certification is finalised. In total you should expect normally at least 3 months from application to finalisation of certification. Please click here for a detailed overview of the certification process.


Who pays for the certification of a producer?
The producer operation normally pays for the certification, although it is also common for a buyer in an economically more developed country to pay for the certification of its key producers. This can be done by a three party contract between the certifier, the payee company and the producer operation, but the recommended option is that the producer signs a direct certification contract and agrees with the fair trade buyer on support of certification costs per direct agreement. In either case there are rules in the Fair for Life Programme to ensure that ownership of fair trade certificate does not result in an unfair situation.


If I pay for the certification of my producers, are they allowed to sell fair trade ingredients to my competitors?
We recommend that the certified producer company and the buyer who pays for certification (the mandator) discuss these issues openly and have some kind of written agreement or memorandum of understanding about their cooperation and expectations. Technically, the company that pays for the certification “owns” the certificate; however clear rules on ownership of ther certificate can be built into the relationship from the beginning. For example, companies can agree that in return for the mandator paying full initial certification costs, the certified company pays half the certification costs in the second year and the certification contract is signed directly with the certified producer operation. However, because of the requirements of fair trade the mandator must permit the certified company to also sell to other companies under fair and appropriate conditions. If it turns out that the certified company benefits substantially from the certification for transactions with other clients, it would be reasonable by the mandator to ask the producer to pay a fair share of the certification cost.


Fair Trade Pricing and Premium

How is the Fair Trade Premium determined in the Fair for Life system?
The programme requires that a Fair Trade Premium is agreed between the two trade partners. It should be fair to both sides and is paid into a separate fair trade fund that then can be used for community projects as decided by the fair trade committee . In case of smallholder groups it can also be paid to producers as premium . The agreed Fair Trade Premium shall be within the range of 5-10% of the farmgate price (or 10% of non-management labour costs in case of hired labour operations), and needs to be agreed in a contract between the trade partners and specified in invoices so that it can be followed up during the audit. Please refer to Annex 1 of Module 3: Criteria for producer groups of the Fair for Life Programme for guidance on the Fair Trade Premium calculation.


Once my producer and I decide on an agreed-upon premium, do all of our transactions have to be fair trade?
Yes, in principle all of the transactions between the fair trade producer and fair trade buyer shall be fair trade according to your fair trade agreements, but application of fair trade conditions for only part of the sales may be possible in certain cases and if agreed by the trade partners.


What are the target groups of the Fair Trade Premium?

For longer supply chains there is a need for an overall Fair Trade Policy that defines the main target groups for fair trade. Depending on the situation these will be primary producers/smallholders, workers on plantations or in the processing factory, or in some cases both or selected social target groups in the local community. Other target groups could be, for example, agricultural workers (who are often casual workers) on small to medium size farms in a fair trade group. The Fair Trade Policy includes a brief social analysis on the most marginalised groups in the specific project situation, and how/ to what extent they can be reached by fair trade.
The decision on use of the Fair Trade Premium is taken by a fair trade premium committee, which includes different stakeholders (majority of representatives of the main fair trade target groups, e.g. producers and workers), or in a general producers/ workers assembly.


Chain of Custody Control and Product Labelling

For a multi-ingredient product, what percentage of my ingredients need to be certified, and how is this declared on the label?
IMO follows similar rules to what is used by organics, in that in a product that shall be labelled as Fair for Life Fair Trade product the majority of all ingredients needs to be fair trade certified. Fair for Life accepts also other fair trade product certifications as equivalent (see Module 1, annex 2).
However, if fair trade ingredients are used in smaller but still considerate quantities, it may be possible to label the product as made with Fair for Life specified ingredients (use of the Fair for Life seal restricted to the back/ side panel). It is also always possible to claim, “*Fair for Life Fair Trade certified ingredient” in the ingredient list. For details please see the composition requirements in Module 1 (annex 3-5).


Which other social or fair trade certification schemes are accepted as equivalent?
Fair for Life has a mutual equivalency agreement with Soil Association Ethical Trade and soon also with Ecocert Fair Trade. Also, FLO producer and trader certification and Fair Trade USA Trader certification is unilaterally accepted as equivalent. Further schemes accepted unilaterally as Social Responsibility Certification are SA 8000, Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture and UTZ Certified under certain conditions. For details and a list of accepted schemes see Module 1, Annex 2.
Additionally, we can evaluate the fair trade certification of suppliers according to other schemes based on the individual evaluation of their respective fair trade audit reports.

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