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Our vision

Since its cretion in 1998, Alter eco has always advocated and ambitious vision for fair trade, with the desire to have a real impact in the south, and to follow practices that are really different from those of conventional trade. We have always sought to go beyond the minimum requirements set by Max Havelaar. We impose stricter rules (for example, paying a price above the minimum standard, conducting spot checks using the audit methodology FTA200, processing and packaging of products on site...). We aim to set and achieve the highest possible standards in fair trade.

There are several trends in fair trade. Some advocate a fair trade limited to minimum standards, a process driven by the volumes that a slight improvement is already better and that we must first try to help as many farmers as possible, even if progress is little and slow.

Our approach is different. We strive always to increase the level of commitment and requirement of fair trade in order to have the greatest impact possible for producers, and educate consumers about the possible devastating effects conventional trade. In seeking to raise  our level of expectations and level of consumer information, we aim to contribute to gradualy change the practices of the entire market, fair or not, and ultimately to reach a far larger number of producers with a greater impact. A shy or unambitious fair trade program has the risk of all of us falling short in our goal for a fairer world.

In addition to our approach of solidarity, based on optimism, cheerfulness, and fun, we have an ambitious and uncompromising vision of fair trade, accompanied by transparency, and guarantees that you rightfully demand.

You will find in this website an in-exhaustive presentation of the differences that characterize and exemplify our vision of fair trade.

Transparency

Market situation

Transparency is a standard requirement of fair trade. The Max Havelaar label guarantees that the producer organizations are transparent and democratic, the decision process formalized, and that the documents needed to verify certification are complete and available for inspection.

However, the degree of transparency by companies in the North that purchase fair trade products can vary considerably

Position and actions of Alter Eco on this issue

Alter Eco has put transparency at the heart of its business. We believe that this is essential for the spirit and success of fair trade and to earn the trust of our customers.

● We support rich and detailed information on all of our products and suppliers. Thus, the packaging of our products provide detailed information, supplemented by fact sheets available on our website (our product's page).

● We are available to all stakeholders to access our other tools for audit and control, including full audit reports on all audit reports on all our partners and methodology.

● We develop proprietary tools such as the AlterEcometre, which is present on our products and on our website for all our products. This shows the main information on the organization of producers and lets you easily know the impact of your purchases.

● We have published several reference books on fair trade. These are also transparent and objective, citing the achievements, successes and failures, and difficulties.

● We write and publish an annual progress report with a comprehensive overview of our business, the successes and problems encountered in the past year, our distinct business model, our main tools and gurantees, etc.

Auditing and monitoring tools

Market situation

Transparency is a standard requirement of fair trade. The Max Havelaar label guarantees that the producer organizations are transparent and democratic, the decision process formalized, and that the documents needed to verify certification are complete and available for inspection.

However, the degree of transparency by companies in the North that purchase fair trade products can vary considerably.

Postion and actions of alter Eco on this issue

Alter eco has put transparency at the heart of its business. We believe that this is essential for the spirit and success of fair trade and to earn the trust of our customers.

We support rich and detailed information on all of our products and suppliers. Thus, the packaging of our products provide detailed information, supplemented by fact sheets available on our website (our products' page).

We are available to all stakeholders to access our other tools for audit and control, including full audit reports on all our parttners and methodology.

We develop proprietary tools such as the alterEcometre, which is present on our products and on our website for all our products. This shows the main information on the organization of producers and lets you easily know the impact of your purchases.

We have published several reference books on fair trade. These are also transparent and objective, citing the achievements, successes and failures, and difficulties.

We write and publish an annual progress report with a comprehensive overview of our business, the successes and problems encountered in the past year, our distinct business model, our main tools and guarantees, etc.

Auditing and monitoring tools

Market situation

The certification system for the most demanding, and most internationally recognized fair trade system is the FLO (Fair trade Labeling Organization, http://www.fairtrade-jp.org). Max Havelaar France is the french representative. Products bearing the Max Havelaar label or equivalent in other importing countries meet international specifications for FLO. This label guarantees that these products are fair trade in accordance with International Standards monitored by FLO-Cert. (http://www.flo-cert.net)

Brands offering fair trade products are generally based on this system of certification. These companies pay a fee to the certifying agency to fund the work of audit and control.

Position and actions of Alter Eco on this issue

The FLO system Max Havelaar is a certification system with a serious commitment to the development for producers with thorough regular checks. It is undoubtedly by far the best system of certification of fair trade. In addition, the internal organization of FLO at international level has considerably strengthened and professionalized in recent years culminating today in a certification system that is highly professional, although certainly not infallible, as with any certification system. The company FLO-Cert, which certifies under the specifications FLO International, has also obtained in 2007 the certification ISO 65 that recognizes, at the international level, that the system is effective in terms of standardizations, professionalization and independence of the certifier. For these reasons, we always made the choice of certification system for products subject to a specification FLO-Max Havelaar.

As an organization for fair trade, a member of WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization), Alter Eco has always considered to have responsability from upstream to downsream, from producer to consumer. Since 1998, we played a leading role in the development of fair trade and intend to help shape this sector in line with our ambition and our requirements. We aim to be an "actor" in fair trade. By this we mean "one who acts." To achieve this objective and to be credible, but also be able to provide our retail partners and consumers with all the guarantees that they are entitled to demand, we have always believed that we must have a perfect control of distribution channels and to keep our independence. We always want to be able to assess and defend the cooperative projects that seem more serious, the most ambitious and most efficient.

The activity of Alter Eco has always rested on two foundations:

● knowledge and control channels on one hand

● distribution, and the attractiveness of the offer in the other.

Since 1998, we use and enrich our own audit methodologies and control pathways that allow us to complement the Max Havelaar label, to have a perfect knowledge of channels and local issues. Within our team, Audit & Sourcing plays a key role alongside the Sales Department amd the Financial Department. We continuously measure the positive impact of our work on the producers in the South, and also to continuously improve our effectiveness in this respect.

By being continuously directly involved in auditing our producer, we can directly see any irregularities or issues and raise them directly with the producers as well as bring such issues to the attention of WFTO.

These unique methodologies are specific to Alter Eco. We are recognized for our serioudness and commitment from upstream to downstream sectors. This is possible due to the unique knowledge of local issues and sectors that Alter Eco has. Consequently, Alter Eco has been chosen by FLO-Cert to sit on its Certification Committee that meets to decide on labeling and non-labeling of producer  organizations.

Fun and Flavours

Market situation

In the quality of fair trade products is generally excellent and often superior to that of comparable conventional products, solidarity still suffers from an image that is sometimes "dusty, sad and unattractive", with limited supply and poor packaging. For some consumers, fair trade products can maintain a sense of participation in a cause. But it is considered to be a sacrifice, not done with pleasure. Also, fair trade products are focused on only a few product categories such as coffee, tea, and chocolate. It is sometimes difficult to find in a supermarket enough to feed consumers' appetites for fresh flavours and culinary discoveries.

Alter Eco's response

Since its inception in 1998, Alter Eco's approach has been to demonstrate that solidarity and pleasure can coexist. The producers with whom we work are certainly poor ($50 to $5,000 annual revenue on average), but they are certainly not sad! Quite the contrary! The discussions we have with them, our ties across the world, from producers to consumers, include an abundance of laughter, smiles, joy, sharing, and emotions, based on deep and fertile friendships. These are sources of great pleasure and fulfillment; a development born of the encounter, of shared knowledge, and shared heritage.

Under no circumstances do we believe that inclusion in a campaign of solidarity should be in any way a gloomy affair. To the contrary, we consider fair trade to be obvious and positive; we simply wish to promote fairness in world trade!

This cheerful and pragmatic vision strongly differentiates us , and is reflected throughout our business and our product range with multiple colours and multiple flavours!

We were pioneers in offering fair trade rice, sugar, juices, quinoa and spices. We continued to innovate with products like Umbu jam, pink rice, black rice, microwaveable rice, olive oil from Palestine, quinoa and black mandarin juice. We hope to bring as many of these products as possible to Japan though we do need to ensure that they meet local market needs.

Each tasting of an Alter Eco product is true pleasure, a unique taste experience. We hope, in time, that you can fill your cupboards with fair trade products. 1001 recipe ideas can be created, with authentic and exotic flavours.

We also published a cookbook, with a preface by Alain Ducasse, to learn to make simple and original recipes with our products.

As long as Alter Eco exists, we will take pride in promoting an enthusiastic vision, which is passionate and committed to solidarity, and to proclaim loudly "C'est si bon de changer le monde!"

Organic Farming

Market situation

A plethora of brands and trandmarks: organic or fair; organic but not fair; fair but not organic; fair and organic. Alter Eco is focused 100% on fair trade, with most of these products also being organic or in transition to organic. All Alter Eco products sold in Japan are organic.

Position and actions of Alter Eco on this issue

To Alter Eco, the synegy between fair trade and organic labeling is evident. How can one speak of concern for future generations when one intends to bequeath to them a land exhausted? How can it be considered fair when farmers suffer from skin diseases, eye diseases and respiratory diseases related to the use of toxic chemicals in their fields; or when there is no guarantee that producers will not be made dependent on large groups that patent the seeds they sell?

Moreover, obtaining organic certification gives producers access to wider markets allowing them to sell their crops at better prices, while gradually improving their yields and preserving ancestral species grown in respect for the land and traditions. Organic certification is therefore part of the rationale of development and promotion of sustainable agriculture.

However, not wishing to purchase goods at producer organizations which are not labeled organic against a fundamental principle of fair trade, which is to work primarily with the most disadvantaged. Indeed, organic certification has a cost that some individual producers can't afford. Thus, many producers grow in amanner that meets organic specifications but have not yet been certified. When producers come together in a cooperative, organic certification is often one of the first investments decided by the members.

The position of Alter Eco is as follows. Work as much as possible with cooperatives certified organic or transitional organic, and accompany those who are not to transition bio. Ensure that the projects of producer organizations incorporate a strong environmental dimension. Try to encourage producer organizations to offer training in organic farming methods.

Local processing

Market situation 

On average, the share of the price of raw materials contained in conventional grocery product is 6to 8% of its selling price in store. If you simply buy raw materials at a higher price, it will take long time to attend a real balance. A major challenge is therefore to enable producers to diversify their income sources, including the ability to carry out part or all of the transformation of the raw materials into the final product.

Position and actions of Alter Eco on this issue

Alter Eco's ambition has always been to transfer the greatest possible added value to producers. One of our characteristics is to transform the greatest possible number of our products in their countries of origin. This is about half of our range of products, thereby dramatically increasing the value added to producers' organizations and has a much higher impact in terms of development. Our organic teas from India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, for example, are processed in their country of origin with local materials. In the end, 40 to 50% of the price you pay for our teas go to the cooperative. On average, with countries of origin, against 6-8% for conventional products and 12-13%, if we just buy products on site. (NB Based on selling prices in France). Due to the cost of exporting to Japan, the percentage are lower here.

 


Environmental and social commitment in North

Market situation

Fair trade promotes the development of producer groupsin the South. The specifications of the label does not necessarily extend this commitment through #best practices" in all social and environmental areas of activity of a company importing and distributing fair trade products. In practice, if the actors are fair trade companies, social responsibility is more developed than the average, and their involvement and commitment to environmental and social issues also esxists in the North.

Position and actions of Alter Eco on this issue

Alter Eco is a company committed to advocacy and consistency:

We want to both prove the merits of fair trade and be a viable business model that is modern and efficient at all levels. Employees and shareholders of Alter Eco, all have values and motivations that have gathered around this unifying project, with the intention that their business practices are consistent with their personal aspirations.

Thus, our environmental and social commitment goes far beyond the purchase of fair trade products, and we strive to continually improve our environmental and social practices in all areas of our business.

Since 2002, we follow our performance annually and include a charter of self-evaluation. The criteria are environmental, social, economic and all of our business (upstream and downstream channels of import) is assessed against these criteria (learn more about our charter)

Examples of commitments Alter Eco takes daily:

● Carbon offset:

Since 2006, we began to calculate and offset the entire emissions of CO2 generated bu our business. It is noteworthy that the main issues are related to the movement of our products and our business in France and not the large import that, contrary to what one might think, is only 8% of our total emissions.

 

As part of our environmental approach, we calculated our carbon emissions for 2006.

Using the methodologies outlined in the "carbon footprint" of the ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency), we identified our emissions by following segmentation:

We are committed to offset all our emissions by funding projects identified.

In parallel, we continue to fund reforestation projects in the Brazilian Amazon by planting many species of tree. (Pure Projet)

● Offices:

Our offices lacated in Paris were not particularly green at the start. But thanks to the commitment of all and particularly Nambona and Carmen, our offices are becoming greener and we see life in pink. Our energy is green and we have recycling bins for our paper; and beware anyone who does not switch off their computer or radiator in the evening.