Ben and Jerry's make fair-trade pledge

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s today announced all its 58 flavours, sold in 39 countries, will be made with fair trade products by the end of 2013.

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s today announced all its 58 flavours, sold in 39 countries, will be made with fair trade products by the end of 2013.

The pledge extends an existing commitment to convert all its European products to fair trade standards by the end of 2011.

Company co-founder Ben Cohen said that changing business practices in the developed world to ensure suppliers elsewhere are not exploited “is really the only moral way to do business”.

“It’s not like some optional add-on,” he said. “There’s no way any of these businesses in the first world would sell stuff for below their costs of making it. It’s about time we didn’t force companies in the third world to operate like that.”

Mr Cohen and co-founder Jerry Greenfield no longer have any board or management position at Ben & Jerry’s, which has annual global sales of $500m (€368m), after selling the company to Unilever in 2000.

But they are still involved with the company they founded as a single ice cream parlour in a renovated service station in Burlington, Vermont, in 1979 and continue to act as watchdogs for the company’s progress on social values.

Ben & Jerry’s launched its first Fairtrade certified product, its basic vanilla flavour, in 2005 and has added one new variant each year since then.

A Fairtrade certified product means the Fair Trade Foundation has determined that farmers got fair prices, workers got decent wages and the product was produced in an environmentally responsible manner.

Ben & Jerry’s is already working with 10 different Fairtrade Co-ops with up to 27,000 members across six different commodities. That includes cocoa producers from the Dominican Republic and Ivory Coast, vanilla producers from India and Uganda, sugarcane producers from Belize, banana producers from Ecuador and almond producers from Pakistan.

The company’s commitment to 100% Fairtrade by the end of 2013 means that it will seek similar deals with pineapple, passion fruit, mango, macadamia nut and peppermint suppliers.

Making the pledge more difficult is the fact that Fairtrade remains a new area for many businesses.

The company’s demand for newly certified ingredients such as almonds and walnuts outstrips the current world supply, meaning it so far has only been able to purchase a third of almonds it needs from a producer in Pakistan.

It said it continued to work with the producer, Mountain Fruits, to increase their harvest and membership, while also working with Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International to certify new co-operatives.

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