Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ: seeing the wood amongst the trees

When you start looking at responsible choices for what you buy, you are faced with a number of options. Fair Trade would be one of the most well known and well advertised, however Rainforest Alliance would be a close second. There are others of course – the coffee that I buy for my everyday coffee is UTZ certified. So what do these terms mean, and should they affect our choices? Let’s look into them, and see what they stand for.


Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.

The International Fairtrade Certification Mark

Fairtrade is a worldwide organisation that aims to ensure that those who are producing the product are paid a fair wage for the work that they accomplish. They claim that around 6 million people in developing countries benefit from the Fairtrade system, which provides them with a fair price for the produce that they sell, and also provides for investment in their local community. Fairtrade certification also prohibits child labour.

The way Fairtrade ensures a fair wage is by setting a minimum trade price for a product. This is the minimum price that goods can be sold for. However, this just sets a starting price for negotiations, and allows better quality goods to fetch a premium price.

While most people would recognise Fairtrade most with chocolate and coffee, you can also get Fairtrade certified cotton, fruit and vegetables, jams and spreads, spices, grains, homewares and more.

There is of course some criticism of the Fairtrade system. Some say that it creates a quality problem, where producers get guaranteed a minimum price, even for poor quality products. Others say that the conditions for entry into the program make it restrictive for producers to enter, and receive that price. That said, Fairtrade is still one of the most well known ethical trade systems around today.

Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.

The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal

The Rainforest Alliance is similar to Fairtrade, however it has more of a focus on the environment. It has five areas of focus for its model: Keeping forests standing, curbing climate change, protecting wildlife, Alleviating poverty, and transforming business practices. As you can see, the focus here is very much on the environment, with some focus also given towards those producing the goods.

In terms of alleviating poverty, Rainforest Alliance claim the “Rainforest Alliance Certified™” seal allows farmers products to reach new markets, negotiate better prices, improve access to credit, and lift themselves and their communities out of poverty, through investing the extra money that they earn in their own community. Being part of a Rainforest Alliance Certified farm also means that employees receive decent wages (which they determine as a minimum of $2 a day), respectable housing and healthcare, and their children having access to education.

Rainforest Alliance boasts some big name supporters. Kraft Coffee is integrating Rainforest Alliance beans into its major brands, Mars has pledged to source its entire cocoa supply from certified sustainable suppliers by 2020 and all of Lipton tea bags will be entirely Rainforest Alliance certified by 2015. The coffee used by McDonald’s McCafe are also Rainforest Alliance certified.

Of course, there are criticisms. It has been described as “Fair trade lite” – allowing companies to be seen as doing something ethical, but at a cheaper price. The Rainforest Alliance certification also doesn’t provide a minimum price for goods, meaning that those who are involved are exposed to the fluctuations of the market. The minimum price for employees is also seen as being set too low. Finally, for things such as coffee, the Rainforest Alliance seal is permitted to be used on products that only contain a mimimum of 30% certified beans, meaning at up to 70% of that coffee does not meet their certification system.

UTZ Certified

UTZ Certified stands for sustainable farming and better opportunities for farmers, their families and our planet. The UTZ program enables farmers to learn better farming methods, improve working conditions and take better care of their children and the environment.

Deutsch: UTZ-Certified Logo

UTZ Certified was originally “Utz Kapeh” which means “Good Coffee” in Mayan. They claim to have 50% of all sustainably certified coffee grown under their label and requirements. Strict monitoring by independent third parties verify that good agricultural practices and management, safe and healthy working conditions, no child labor and protection of the environment are assured throughout the growing and manufacturing processes. They do this by educating farmers on better farming methods; ensuring that working standards set out by the International Labour Organization are upheld; better care for nature through the optimization and reduction of pesticides and using sustainable practices such as recycling and renewable energy; and a strict “No Child Labour” policy, which includes supporting local schools to ensure that children get an education. Through this, UTZ Certified claim that farmers will receive a better crop, which will lead to a better income, while at the same time producing a better environment (through more sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices), and a better life through supporting the farmers and their families.

Unlike Fairtrade, UTZ Certified doesn’t specify a minimum price for Coffee, and as such Farmers are subject to the volatility of the market. While they claim protection of the environment, UTZ Certified farmers are allowed to use pesticides as long as they are allowed to be used in the major markets (US, Europe and Japan), and that they are applied according to the directions on the label. Another criticism is that UTZ Certified requires workers to be paid in line with national laws – it doesn’t take into consideration if the national laws set the minimum wage too low.

UTZ Certified brands include IKEA, Harris Coffee, and The Coffee Club, which boast 90% of all coffee beans as being from UTZ Certified farms.

Not Labelled?

It should be noted that just because something doesn’t have a label, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily bad for the environment or the workers who produced it. Dilmah Tea has long refused Fairtrade certification, with the founder claiming that Fairtrade is a “farce” and nothing more than marketing spin. Dilmah has long supported fair remuneration of its workers, and puts 10% of its gross profits into a charitable fund to aid disadvantaged people. I’m currently enjoying some coffee that is completely Australian grown, roasted and owned. Due to the Australian fair trading regulations, you can assume that this coffee is ethically farmed.

In the end, when looking at the benefits and criticisms of all three major labelling systems, it is difficult to pick one as being better than the others. In the end, for me personally, I prefer to choose coffee (and other products) that have a label, as opposed to none. While it doesn’t guarantee everything, it means that at least some effort is being made towards making the farmers lives more sustainable.

Is any life more important than another?

It’s tough to write on such a subject a as the Boston bombings so soon afterwards the event. I want to extend my sympathies to the victims and their families. However, I’ve seen a slightly worrying tend starting to appear on Facebook. Is the images contrasting the Boston bombings with a bombing somewhere in the Middle East, generally passing the question why the Boston bombings received blanket media coverage, while the bombings in the Middle East didn’t receive any.
Is this a legitimate question to ask? Yes. Is the right time to ask it on the very same day? I don’t think so.
By saying that one bombing should have received coverage over another is saying, in effect, that some peoples lives are more important than others. Whether that’s American lives over those of the Middle Eastern lives, or the other way around, either is not right. As a Christian, I believe that we are all made in God’s image, therefore we are all equally important to God.
So as Christians, how should we respond? Firstly, with prayer – for those affected by violence all over the world. Secondly, no matter who is responsible for these acts of terrorism, we need to remember that we cannot respond to violence with violence if we hope to achieve peace. You cannot achieve peace by fighting for it. As such, we need to be promoting a strong nonviolent response. How that will look like will depend on who is found to be responsible for the bombings. However, any response should be one that embraces nonviolent principles.

Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34:14
At any time such as this, we need to strengthen our resolve to turn from evil and instead to do good. We need to seek peace and to pursue it in our world. We need to be the voice shouting in the wilderness of the new way, the way of peace, of nonviolence in ways that provide real solutions to the issues at hand.

Advance Australia Fair? (part 3)

In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Today we’re looking at some of the issues that Asylum Seekers and Refugees face in the area of Language.


Language is a major issue that affects how refugees and asylum seekers are able to integrate into a community. One journal article wrote that “English language proficiency has a direct and obvious impact on the ability of women to settle in Australia and on the length of time that process takes.” The authors of this article found that the majority of participants in a study attributed many of their problems as arising due to their language difficulties. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship does fund an Adult Migrant English Program, providing 510 hours of ESL tuition within the first five years of arrival. However, many have found that these programs are filled with cultural problems, such as mixed classes which make it uncomfortable for those who have come from countries where segregation was the norm.

Another difficulty is that the children often pick up English quicker than the parents. This forms more difficulties between children and parents, where the children know words in English, but are unable to explain it to their parents. This puts further strain on their parents, as they are unable to fully communicate with their children.

As indicated in the last post, the Australian Government’s new “no benefit” policy allows for asylum seekers to be placed in community detention, but they are unable to take part in employment, volunteer work, or to take part in ESL classes. As stated above, this means that those in this situation are unlikely to integrate into the community at any stage. It is a very disturbing policy, that makes the life for those in this situation very difficult.

Advance Australia Fair? (part 2)

In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Today we’re looking at some of the issues that Asylum Seekers and Refugees face in the area of Employment.


Employment is one of the major issues and concerns of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, because they do not want to feel like they are a burden on the community. Those who are not permitted to work (because of Temporary Protection Visa’s or conditions placed on their community based detention) find themselves feeling demoralised or despaired at their inability to contribute to Australian Society. Those who are able to seek employment often find discrimination either in the application process, or within the job itself. One Sudanese woman said “At work, the white Australian nurses give me the heaviest and messiest duties to do. Some talk down to me and others just don’t take notice of me and ignore me.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission visited those who were living in community detention. During those visits, they found that “opportunities for self-reliance and meaningful activities are critical to rebuilding resilience amongst asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons.” Providing meaningful employment can be a very strong way of enabling refugees and asylum seekers to feel a part of their new community.

With this in mind, the Australian Government’s new “No Benefit” policy is incredibly worrying. Basically, what the government can do is give some asylum seekers a temporary protection visa, which does not allow them to work, volunteer, or even take part in ESL classes. This effectively removes them from society, and adds shocking results for their mental health, because not only are they sitting around doing nothing, but they feel bad about having to rely on people and agencies for their survival.


Advance Australia Fair? (part 1)

In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Over the next few posts, we’ll look at some of the issues that those coming to our country faces in the areas of housing, employment, language and health. We’ll then look at what’s currently happening, particularly in regional areas, and what possible future approaches we can make to share our boundless plains.


There are a number of issues relating to housing in the resettlement of asylum seekers and refugees. The Brotherhood of St Laurence found that in Shepparton, cheap housing was initially plentiful, it since has become scarce. Housing that was available is often of poor quality, and within a system that is difficult for asylum seekers and refugees to understand. This makes exploitation by real estate agents a common occurrence. There are multiple stories of families with many children being placed in houses with only two or three bedrooms. In a Sudanese community in Colac, the Brotherhood of St Laurence again found a lack of public housing, and difficulties in getting private rentals. Initial settlement costs are another concern, with essential items such as a fridge, beds or blankets being difficult to source from a local Migrant Resource Centre. Where public housing was available, it was often shared amongst a number of families. One woman said “the way we live now, we don’t have plans because we are living together, three families in the one house.” Stress in the area of housing makes it difficult for asylum seekers to feel settled within a community.

Stay tuned for the next post, where we discuss some of the issues that asylum seekers and refugees face in the area of Employment. In the mean time, I’d love to hear any stories that you have about housing difficulties for asylum seekers and refugees, and any thoughts about how we can be more open to sharing the boundless plains of our nation.

References: Taylor, Stanovic and Brotherhood of St Laurence, Refugees and Regional Settlement: Balancing Priorities, 2005

Do not doubt, but believe

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Do Not Doubt, but believe, was given at Rosebud Salvation Army on Sunday 7 April, 2013. The Bible reading was John 20:19-31.

This past week has been a bit of a shock to the system. We came down on Maundy Thursday, got straight into things with the Haagidah dinner, Good Friday, Dawn Service and Easter Sunday. Then that afternoon, we headed back up to Melbourne for lunch with Liesl’s family, then we stayed in Melbourne to do some study on Monday, before heading down that night to be back here for the 8am prayer meeting, and starting our ministry here with Janette and Geoff. And already, I must say, that they’ve been great, and have shown us a lot already in this short time, but I do have to say that my head doesn’t really know where it is right now.

In the Church’s calendar, today is the first Sunday after Easter, and while through Easter, we focus in on the Death and Resurrection, it is this period that the church can really look forward to. We are in the time of remembering Christ’s days on earth post resurrection, and everything that means to us. Christ may have risen last Sunday, but he lives on in the hearts and the lives of those who worship him in his church. There are, however, so many who live just for the Big holidays. “CoE Christians” they’re sometimes called – Christmas and Easter. The two biggest days in the Church’s calendar, where we also get the largest congregations. Now I’m new to the Salvos, but I’m sure the same principle applies. In the Anglican Church, the Sunday after Christmas and after Easter were always known as Low Sunday. After the massive high of Christmas and Easter, the Sunday after was traditionally when we would get our smallest attendances of the year. Christmas, I can understand that. But Easter – the story isn’t over yet. Jesus is Risen! But that’s not the end of it. Christ rose from the Grave, but he hadn’t finished here on earth, and even though he had to ascend into Heaven, he left behind the Holy Spirit to continue the work here on earth.

Today we’re looking at a reading that takes part firstly still on that Easter Sunday, then on the following week. Jesus has risen – but he still has work to do. But just like my week this week, the Disciples are not quite sure where their heads are at right at the moment.

Despite the knowledge, there’s still doubt

The disciples had a really crazy day. It started with their teacher, that they had devoted three years of their lives to, being dead. The one who had taught the revolutionary message of a new way, of a new kingdom, the one they believed to take this new kingdom to fruition, was dead. The seed of doubt had been planted. Then one of the women, Mary, had come saying the body had been stolen. Peter and the beloved disciple confirmed that the body was gone. The seed of doubt grew – had someone stolen the body? Had something miraculous happened? Even when Mary returned saying that she had seen Jesus, they still weren’t certain.

They met that night, ten of the apostles, and a number of disciples, to discuss the events, and to worship. They locked the door, because they were still fearful as to whether the Jewish leaders still had it in for them or not.  They knew Jesus’ teachings, they knew the events of that day so far, yet when Jesus appeared, he still deemed it necessary to show his wrists and his side to show where he had been pierced. They then realised what had happened and they celebrated.

Thomas had even more information than the disciples who were there that night. Thomas wasn’t at the meeting that night, and despite being told by the disciples that Jesus appeared in the room with them, he still couldn’t bring himself to believe. This was a big thing for Thomas. Earlier – on the way to see Lazarus’ dead body, Thomas had exclaimed “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” This was a statement of blind devotion to Jesus – he was willing to follow him even to death. Yet when doubt had crept in, unless he saw with his own eyes, he couldn’t be brought back to that faith.

When there is doubt, faith flourishes

It’s so easy for us to have doubts these days. There is so much pressure from the world to have us doubt our faith, or for us to have to prove it beyond doubt. Even last Sunday, Easter Sunday, I was watching on Sunrise a creationist who was willing to put up $10,000 for an evolutionist to disprove the bible in a court – even if this guy wasn’t the most convincing of creationists himself. People want us to prove, beyond all doubt, that Christ is saviour. The problem comes is that Jesus himself said that there would always be a need for some doubt, because where there is doubt – that is when faith can flourish.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We have not seen with our own eyes. We can read the stories, we can study the biblical accounts, we can know our own accounts of God in our lives, but there will always be people who try to explain away those experiences. This is where faith comes in. In Hebrews 11:1, Paul writes that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Though we did not see Christ crucified and risen, we have faith that this embodies our hope – that on the cross Christ paid for our sins, and in the resurrection God accepted that payment.

When we embrace this doubt, that is when our faith can grow. The doubts that we may have actually provide the space for our faith to grow, and when that happens Jesus provides us with a rich reward.

With faith and belief, comes life

At the end of this passage comes a little epilogue from the writer of the fourth gospel. Verse 30-31: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” The signs that are written in the Gospel of John are written so that we may come to believe that Jesus IS the Messiah. When we have faith in that, when we come to believe, the result is that we are given life in Jesus’ name.

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we have a guarantee that tells us that we are free. We have a new life, where we can live in the hope that Christ has paid for our sins, and we no longer need to live in them. The guarantee that we have in Christ’s resurrection tells us that we are free – so let’s live that life! Let’s give up the sins that we hold on to, because we’re holding onto a bit of doubt. Jesus commissioned his disciples with the words “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” God sent Jesus to bring people into a relationship with him, to know him, and to know the life that he gives. As his disciples, we are commissioned with those same words – we are sent, and the Father sent Jesus. We are sent to spread his message, and to tell others about what Jesus has done in our lives, whether that’s through words, or through actions, or just through our lives.

Live the life that Jesus gave, and share your faith

Some of you may know that I have just recently come back from Manus Island, working in the Refugee Processing Centre there. In our role there, The Salvation Army is not allowed to proselytise, however despite this I had many opportunities to share my faith. This was just through living life with the community members, and when they asked why I did the things that I did, it all basically comes back to one answer – Because of Christ, who lives in me. As an Anglican, evangelism was a difficult thing for me – we weren’t very good at it, and I never saw myself as gifted in it. How surprising it was in my first college review for one of the staff to say that they saw in me a strong gift of evangelism. See for me, evangelism isn’t just telling people about Christ, and seeking converts. It is living the life that Christ has asked of us, and being open for the opportunities when they arise.

Isn’t that, after all, what Jesus did? He lived the life that God had sent him to. He engaged in the community, and lived according to God’s will. Because of the way he lived, people were attracted to him. That’s what he meant when he says “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” So start living the life that Jesus has called you to, and living out the faith in your everyday life. Jesus died that we may have new life. Let’s spread that new life to everyone that we meet.

What is it that you’re looking for?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, What is it that you’re looking for, was given at Arthurs Seat as part of the Easter Dawn Service for the Rosebud and Mornington Salvation Army on Sunday 31 April, 2013. The Bible reading was John 20:1-18.

Who is it that you’re looking for? It’s a question that Jesus posed to Mary, but it’s one that is apt for us today as well. Who is it that you’re looking for? Are you looking for chocolate eggs or hot cross buns? Are you looking for the faith you once held as a child, or at your first conversion? Or maybe at this time in the morning, you’re looking for the nearest barista? Continue reading “What is it that you’re looking for?”