10 Principles of Fair Trade
When founded, Fair Congo (‘Origins’) sought collaborations with the top fair-trade certification brands in the US and EU. Unfortunately, not one had the capacity or willingness to work in DRC. Additionally, they all placed significant financial burdens, primarily through auditing costs, on producers whom on average already make below $1/day. Seeing little alternative, we defined our own fair-trade standard by adapting principles laid out by the World Fair Trade Organization. This can be summarized in the following 10 principles:
Principle 1: Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
This principle is the core of Fair Congo’s (‘Origins’) business model and the reason this impact investment was made. Fair Congo (‘Origins’) works directly with cooperatives and women and youth groups, empowering them with training, tools and a greater remittance for the products they produce. We also work diligently to scale all of our initiatives to both increase the number of people impacted as well as be able to increase the overall payment for materials produced. Fair Congo (‘Origins’) is also developing plans to increase formalization, provide opportunities for micro-finance and create value addition locally rather than just exporting raw material.
Principle 2: Transparency and Accountability
Fair Congo (‘Origins’) began as a concept developed by its stakeholders, beginning from the due diligence and traceability standards they developed. This approach means it wasn’t an existing operation which had to adapt to compliance but rather compliance that became a sustainable business model. These standards include full transparency throughout the supply chain and regular 3rd party audits which independently verify its integrity.
Principle 3: Fair Trading Practices
Fair Congo (‘Origins’) was founded by building its business model revolves around and is dependent on the principles to which it was names, Fair. From transparent and immediate electronic payment methods to investing into the communities which produce. This can mean low interest micro-finance as a prepayment or capacity building investment which takes a longer-term approach for return. Fair Congo (‘Origins’) is an impact investment with its shareholders and stakeholders building a foundation for long-term regional development, to provide a strong base for peace and prosperity. This can only be done with direct community involvement and engagement with multiple levels of civil society.
Principle 4: Payment of a Fair Price
Our pricing formula is displayed throughout our offices, point of sales and disclosed to every cooperative at the beginning of every contract negotiation. The current market price, LBMA for example in the case of gold, is also displayed at each of the point of sales. On average, Fair Congo (‘Origins’) has a payout rate of 95%, in line with other fair-trade models such as Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold.
Principle 5: Ensuring no Child Labor and Forced Labor
Fair Congo (‘Origins’) adheres to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, OECD- Practical Actions for Companies to Identify & Address the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Mineral Supply Chains, and DRC law on the employment of children. Fair Congo (‘Origins’) completes regular inspections to ensure that there is no forced labor or children engaged in the worst forms of labor in its workforce of its suppliers/producers.
Principle 6: Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equity and Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association
Fair Congo (‘Origins’) does not discriminate in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, tribe, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, medical status or age. We actively and aggressively promote women empowerment, as detailed in the other principles.
Principle 7: Ensuring Good Working Conditions
Fair Congo (‘Origins’) provides a safe and healthy working environment for its employees. We comply, at a minimum, with national and local laws and ILO conventions on health and safety. We also are developing new ways to improve working conditions from our sourcing sites and work directly with our stakeholders to implement these plans to improve health and safety practices in our producer groups.
Principle 8: Providing Capacity Building
Fair Congo (‘Origins’) not only develops its own capacity building programs, generally managed through the Fair Congo Foundation, it works as a partner with its development stakeholders in this capacity. From training for local value-addition to sensitization on due diligence and traceability, Fair Congo (‘Origins’) recognizes the economic opportunity to empower its local producer partners and continuously works to improve its upstream engagement.
Principle 9: Promoting Fair Trade
Fair Congo (‘Origins’) has faced many challenges while in development. One of the largest is getting US and European companies to accept natural resource products from DRC, an area considered a conflict-zone and high risk. Many companies would prefer to embargo this material to avoid any unforeseen complications. This is one of the principle reasons that the Fair Congo Foundation was setup, to promote the more positive sides of DRC and the natural resource products it has available for responsible export. We expand this even further to include art to showcase these works in galleries across the globe. We intend to change the perception of DRC, that is isn’t just an area of conflict, rape and disease as often portrayed in media.
Principle 10: Respect for the Environment
Fair Congo (‘Origins’) works with its cooperatives to extract and process ASM gold without the use of cyanide or mercury. We further complete Eco-friendly analyses on our sourcing sites to provide accountability and measurement of any environmental impact. We have also brought several existing women empowerment initiatives already operating in Kenya to DRC, which either recycles/upcycles material or sources from our artisanal producers and produce finished products locally. This reduces the carbon footprint, primarily from transport, and showcases the viability of these sustainable business models.