Fair trade flowers are a thoughtful way to brighten up a loved one’s day and their space while also ensuring that the people growing those flowers were respected along the way, too.
Why Choose Fair Trade?
If you’re purchasing flowers in the United States chances are you’re purchasing imported flowers, as they make up an estimated 90% of the market. These imported flowers are probably from either Colombia or Ecuador, where workers regularly face labor exploitation and are often underpaid.
According to International Labor Rights Forum’s “Fairness in Flowers” campaign, 55% of flower workers in Ecuador have experienced some form of sexual harassment and 20% of flower workers in 2000 were children.
While conditions in Colombia are reportedly not as bad as in Ecuador, women are regularly fired when discovered to be pregnant and most flower workers are paid poverty-level wages, earning less in an entire day ($7) than what a typical single bouquet costs to purchase.
Additionally, workers on flower plantations in South America and elsewhere are often denied the rights to organize and bargain collectively for better wages and conditions by companies that (illegally) blacklist and fire workers who organize. The practice of third-party subcontracting — which reduces transparency and company accountability — also contributes to labor injustices, despite the introduction of stronger labor laws.
It’s clear that free trade is failing flower workers — it’s time for a fairer flower industry.
Ways to Get Involved
Talk with your neighborhood florist or to the flower companies you typically purchase from (like 1-800-FLOWERS) and voice your concerns with the flower industry and tell them that you care about these issues. Ask them what they’re doing to ensure their flowers were sourced ethically.
Look for flowers at farmer’s markets from local farms (who you know follow sustainable and ethical practices) or cut flowers from your own garden if you can!
Floret Flowers can be a great resource for finding local-to-you farms with in-season and even organic flowers!
Look for fair trade certifications.
There are two broadly recognized fair trade certifications for flowers.
This certification ensures that the flowers were sourced from farms that meet stringent labor standards, plus the business or importer using the Fair Trade Certified™ seal must pays a sum in addition to the purchase price that goes to the producer community in the form of Community Development Funds.
What are the Fair Trade Certified™ standards? In addition to fundamental worker rights protections — such as no forced or child labor and no employer interference in a worker’s right to organize — the Fair Trade Certification ensures fair wages and benefits like insurance and paid time off, reasonable working hours, access to basic services, environmentally responsible production practices, supply chain traceability, and more.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into this certification, you can read the full compliance requirements for Fair Trade Certified™’s Agricultural Production Standard.
The FAIRTRADE mark is a symbol of the international Fairtrade system. There are a few different types of FAIRTRADE marks, including one that recognizes an entire product as Fairtrade certified (black background) and one that recognizes a particular ingredient within the product as Fairtrade certified (white background). You may see the white FAIRTRADE mark if there is one type of flower within a bouquet that is Fairtrade certified.
Products with the FAIRTRADE mark have been independently audited and checked for compliance with Fairtrade International’s economic, social and environmental standards. These standards aim to not only ensure producers receive prices that cover the cost of sustainable production but that there is an additional Fairtrade Premium for future investments and pre-financing opportunities available as needed. Learn more about Fairtrade International’s standards and objectives here.
Now that there’s a clear backdrop of why choosing fair trade flowers matters, let’s dive into where you can find these ethically sourced flowers!
Whole Trade® is the label from Whole Foods guaranteeing ethical sourcing from third-party Fair Trade certifiers. This “Whole Trade Guarantee” is a commitment to ethical trade (fair wages and good working conditions), ecological responsibility, and investments in community development.
Where to Buy: Whole Foods locations across the US and Canada or through Amazon Prime in select zip codes.
Based in Florida, Sense Ecuador is a socially and environmentally conscious business with premium fair trade roses. Their elegant roses are sourced from Hoja Verde Farm and are all Fair Trade Certified™.
The company is also currently in the process of becoming a B-Corporation!
Where to Buy: Order online for delivery within the US or Ecuador
“The UK’s most ethical florist”, Arena Flowers has a collection of ethically-grown roses and other flowers sourced from a range of Fairtrade certified farms in Kenya. These farms have been using the Fairtrade premiums for ecological sustainability, water efficiency, and educational projects.
Where to Buy: Order online for delivery within the UK
UK-based food retailer Co-op is owned by millions of members, making it one of the world’s largest co-operatives. With a foundational commitment to equity and solidarity, all of the roses Co-op sources from Africa are Fairtrade certified. Co-op makes up a significant share of the market, purchasing 35 million Fairtrade roses per year!
Where to Buy: Available in Co-op stores throughout the UK
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