Pieter Swart with wife and business partner Rain Morgan, founders of Turqle Trading, the first South African company to get the WFTO Guaranteed Fair Trade status.
Turqle Trading shares experience with using the WFTO Product Label
In April 2016, Turqle Trading became a Guaranteed Member and has since been using the WFTO Product Label. In the following, Pieter Swart of Turqle Trading tells us about the meaning of the Guaranteed status and the product label to his organisation. He tackled two popular questions: how have the reactions of the buyers and end consumers been and what are the necessary steps in promoting the recognition of the label? An inspirational and motivational read!
PIETER SWART: The value of a product label is that it communicates instantly, without words (thereby clearing the language barrier instantly). It’s a brand – an image - that people start attaching a value to. Before the launch of the label, we (the members of WFTO), did not have a way to tell our Fair Trade story at a glance. We could be doing the right thing a thousand times over, but there was no way of showing this to consumers other than writing loads of text that people seldom read and less frequently remembered.
What we have now is incredibly powerful and at its simplest, an immediate evidence that our Fair Trade claims have been checked. Buyers and consumers can shop with confidence. If it says “Fair Trade”, it is Fair Trade. We have been checked, so they do not have to.
It also gives WFTO, for the first time in it’s history, a ‘face’ to consumers outside the traditional Fair Trade markets. A product carrying the label, keeps telling its story - from the moment it leaves the producer, through the entire chain of wholesalers, retailers and eventually to the consumer and to the end of its life.
"A product carrying the label, keeps telling its story - from the moment it leaves the producer, through the entire chain of wholesalers, retailers and eventually to the consumer and to the end of its life."
In the last year, Turqle has shipped at least 400 000 products with the label to a variety of markets, both Fair Trade and mainstream, and everyone that has either purchased one of these products or just picked it up in a shop to look at, has seen the label. We insist on using the label on every product that carries one of our brands – the only time we will sell a product to someone without the label is if it is private label.
Ultimately the objective of all production, is for the product to sell. The label differentiates the product from the conventional market product, on the shop shelf – right there where the consumer makes their choice.
Initially, the brand will obviously have most value inside the fair trading community. But even outside the traditional Fair Trade channels, it tells consumers that this Fair Trade Organisation took a great deal of care to do the right thing for the people who made the product.
It is not going to be easy. It is not going to be an instant success, but the Fair Trade product label is the most powerful communication tool WFTO could have given us as members. It is up to us – the individual Guaranteed member - to use this label and to explain and educate consumers on what it means. At worst, it starts a conversation and at best we can grow one of the most powerful Fair Trade consumer labels.
We (Turqle Trading) have certainly seen a significant increase in sales in new markets, since we became guaranteed and have been using the label. We now do not have to try and justify to new customers why we believe we are practicing Fair Trade. The WFTO product label reassures them before they even ask the question.
We see the label as a complete “game changer” in the Fair Trade landscape. This is the first time craft producers can get recognition in the market for their fair trading efforts. It is the first time organisations (rather than commodity chains) get Fair Trade recognition. After all, fair trading is about people, not commodities.
The WFTO Guaranteed label and the value system it represents, particularly for craft producers, is one of the most significant developments in Fair Trade in this century. It is a thing of tremendous value. It is up to each one of us to guard its reputation and spread the word – one product at a time.
(Introduction and interview by Lea Strub)