ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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2007 ISO COPOLCO Workshop Asks: Can Consumers Rely On Fair Trade Claims?

New York, Jun 07, 2007

The Consumer Policy Committee of the International Organization for Standardization, ISO COPOLCO, recently gathered in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, for its twenty-ninth plenary meeting. Established in 1978, COPOLCO identifies standardization areas of priority interest to consumers and works to promote and coordinate consumer representation in those areas.

The theme of the 2007 COPOLCO workshop, Can consumers rely on fair trade claims?, explored a variety of issues associated with value-based consumer purchasing. Given the fast growth of the fair trade market and the proliferation of ethical trade labels, workshop participants discussed concerns about transparency and accountability. Consumers International (CI) underscored the importance of providing consumers with clear information about claims so that they can make informed purchasing decisions. Further discussion highlighted the need to promote fair trade and better recognition of fair trade organizations.

An agreement was reached to establish a joint fact-finding group to include the participation of the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT), the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL), Associacao Brasileira de Normas Tecnicas (ABNT), Association Francaise de Normalisation (AFNOR), and other interested stakeholders. Pending funding, CI made a provisional offer to host this activity. The agreement for further dialogue under the CI umbrella was seen as a significant accomplishment, given opposition by the fair trade organizations to ISO standardization in this area. Members of the ANSI delegation—including Linda Golodner of the National Consumers League, Jason Morrison of Pacific Institute, and James McCabe of ANSI—played a key role in facilitating the workshop outcome.

COPOLCO also approved new work item proposals: 1) an international standard on guidelines for business-to-consumer electronic commerce transactions; and 2) a guidance standard on how organizations can establish effective compliance programs to avoid inadvertent non-compliance with the law.

In addition, COPOLCO agreed to advance a new work item proposal for a voluntary international standard that would provide guidance on how organizations can obtain consumer and public interest stakeholder input. Participants noted that the standard would be particularly relevant as ISO standardization has evolved to encompass multiple social policy areas such as environmental management, water and wastewater services, social responsibility, and food safety management, which all call for public stakeholder input.

The 2008 COPOLCO workshop and plenary meeting will be hosted by the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) in Seoul, Korea. For additional information, please contact James McCabe, ANSI director of consumer relations and public policy (