10 Principles of Fair Trade
When founded, Fair Congo sought collaborations with the top fair-trade certification brands in the US and EU. Unfortunately, not one had the capacity 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 no other choice, we decided to define our own transparent fair trade standard by using the ten principles laid out by the World Fair Trade Organization. Unlike other fair trade brands, our standard puts none of the financial burden on those most in need of socio-economic elevation. The fair trade standards are further developed and managed by the Fair Congo Foundation board of advisors. Before we certify any material to be fair trade we conduct a detailed inspection of the entire supply chain, going above and beyond our standard due diligence inspections, what we call the Fair Congo Fair Trade DD report. This report encompasses the following 10 principles:
Principle 1: Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
This principle is the core of Fair Congo’s business model and the reason this impact investment was made. Fair Congo 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 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 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 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 is an impact investment with it 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.
Principle 5: Ensuring no Child Labor and Forced Labor
Fair Congo 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 ensures that there is no forced labor in its workforce or its suppliers/producers.
Principle 6: Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equity and Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association
Fair Congo 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, HIV/AIDS status or age. We actively and aggressively promote women empowerment, as detailed in the other principles.
Principle 7: Ensuring Good Working Conditions
Fair Congo 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 not only develops its own capacity building programs, generally managed through the Fair Congo Foundation, it works as a partner with its stakeholders in this capacity. Fair Congo is also a capacity building partner in the USAID funded CBRMT.
Principle 9: Promoting Fair Trade
Fair Congo has faced many challenges while in development. One of the greatest is getting importers to accept natural resource products from DRC, an area considered a conflict-zone and high-risk. Too 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 paintings and other artworks and showcase these works in galleries across the globe. We intend to change the perception of DRC, not just an area of conflict, rape and disease.
Principle 10: Respect for the Environment
Fair Congo works with its cooperatives to extract and process ASM gold without the use of cyanide or nitric acid. 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 seek to recycle material, source from monitored artisanal sites and produce finished products showcasing the viability of these sustainable business models. Fair Congo is also developing plans to build its own off-grid office, made of recycled shipping containers and operating on renewable power.