Fairly Traded Herbs, Ingredients, and Supply Chains
Since our beginning, we have been committed to providing herbs that are fairly traded. This means that we work to make sure the farmers and producers growing the herbs are treated and paid fairly for their work. But our commitment goes deeper than pay—it also includes a commitment to meet ethical supply chain standards, such as safe working conditions, environmental stewardship, diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, and more.
By purchasing our products, you can rest assured that we are engaging in sustainable and equitable supply chains, ultimately supporting the livelihoods of all the people involved in getting products from farm to shelf.
As one of our three pillars, trading fairly is a key part of how we operate business. It requires transparency, a willingness to communicate openly, and respect in all our relationships, as well as acknowledging where we sometimes fall short and need to improve.
In this article:
- The Principles of Fair Trade
- Fair Trade Certification
- The Fair for Life Difference
- Protecting Wild Plants with the FairWild Standard
- When Products Aren’t Certified Fair Trade
- Where We Sometimes Fall Short
- What Comes Next
According to the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), “Fair Trade is a global movement of consumers, producers, businesses, and certifiers who consider people and the planet first.”1
We are committed to the following fair trade principles established by the World Fair Trade Organization:2
- Maintaining direct, long-term relationships with producers based on solidarity, trust, and mutual respect.
- Paying promptly and fairly. We believe that fair trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. When working with long-term partners, pre-payment requests are granted when possible, as pre-financing provides sustained financial support to producers throughout the growing season.
- Providing equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender or background.
- Upholding safe, healthy, and empowering working conditions free of forced labor and physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal harassment or abuse.
- Seeking to eliminate discrimination based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, age, marital, or health status.
- Cultivating environmental stewardship throughout the entire trading chain.
- Celebrating the cultural diversity of communities, encouraging the development of farming practices and organizational models based on indigenous traditions and techniques to sustain cultures and traditions.
When fair trade certification first became available, certifiers were mainly focused on large commodities, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and bananas. There wasn’t any certification process for smaller crops, including herbs.
Compared to the global demand for coffee or chocolate, the herbal market is still quite small!
Becoming certified is also a rigorous process, which starts at the farms. It takes time (months, if not years), resources, and a great deal of paperwork. As we mainly work with small farms, the cost and effort involved hasn’t always made sense for them.
However, with a growing interest in herbs across the globe, we have seen fair trade certification grow within the herbal market. Our industry is catching up!
Thanks to EcoCert (the certifying body for Fair for Life) and the FairWild Foundation, which developed the third-party accredited standards and certifications needed for specialized Ayurvedic herbs, and thanks to growing demand for Fair Trade certified herbs, more farm partners are working to certify their farms and facilities to be able to offer Fair Trade certified herbs. This means that, here at Banyan, we now have the opportunity to purchase more and more certified herbs as they become available.
We strive to expand our participation with Fair for Life and FairWild by certifying as many of our finished goods as possible.
Because demand is still small and the steps involved can be a barrier for some farmers, the majority of the herbs we carry do not yet have any third-party certification available. Just as we have for years, we continue to follow the principles of fair trade—developing strong relationships with the farmers and producers, paying them fairly, and doing everything we can to ensure a fair supply chain.
Following these principles and pursuing certification is a voluntary process that validates our commitment and gives reassurance that we aim to make and sell products that have fairly traded and ethically sourced ingredients.
Banyan Botanicals is a certified Fair Trade Partner with Fair for Life, which means that we have completed a rigorous certification process with Fair for Life. To learn more about the Fair for Life objectives and certification process, you can read the Fair for Life Standard.
Fair for Life is more than just certifying the ingredients we use—this is a full company certification, similar to our becoming a certified B Corporation, in which a company is held to the same standards as producers. This goes much further than the traditional fair trade certification of large commodity crops.
It also goes beyond labor—the certifying body, Ecocert, essentially certifies social and environmental responsibility across an entire supply chain and within an entire business.
Here’s a peek into what it means to be a Fair Trade Partner with Fair for Life:
- The entire supply chain is certified. Unlike other fair trade standards, it guarantees everyone along the entire certified supply chain is treated and paid fairly and equitably. Everyone throughout the supply chain must receive minimum fair wages and safe working conditions. This includes our farming partners, manufacturing partners, packers, and our own employees.
- There are set global standards. Unlike most other fair trade standards, Fair for Life covers trade with developed as well as developing countries.
- It ensures full transparency. You can see the scores for both our suppliers and Banyan, called our fair score, on the Fair for Life website.
- Annual audits are completed. Every year certified Fair for Life Trade Partners must participate in a thorough, in-person audit with representatives from Ecocert to review annual certification requirements and fair-trade activity. This audit takes at least 8 hours.
- It encourages community empowerment. A percentage of our purchase price of fair trade certified ingredients goes into a fair-trade fund for the producers. With the help of local fair trade fund committees that represent their communities, they select projects that are most impactful for their workers and community members. These projects vary based on the needs of the community and have included:
- Supporting a farmer’s family with healthcare costs.
- Building community infrastructure, such as roads and schools.
- Building or supporting community health clinics.
When you see one of our products is Fair for Life Fair Trade certified, this is a guarantee that it meets Ecocert's threshold for certified ingredients. The certified ingredients are listed on the labels. Check out our list of certified Fair for Life Fair Trade products.
The FairWild Standard has many of the same social principles as Fair for Life. But the biggest difference is that FairWild doesn’t focus on cultivated crops—they work to protect wild plant species and their habitats, ensuring their continued survival.
They are also committed to fairly supporting the livelihoods of those involved in the harvesting process.
For all of our products that aren’t yet certified fair trade, we have our own steps in place to ensure we are meeting our commitment to trading fairly. In addition to the fair trade principles we uphold, we also apply the following steps:
- All of our major suppliers are required to sign our code of conduct, which reflects our values and our three pillars. This code of conduct was created to ensure our suppliers are committed to upholding safe working conditions, ensuring workers are treated with respect, and that they operate in an environmentally responsible manner.
- When we identify new suppliers, we have a supplier qualification process that screens their business practices. This includes but is not limited to reviewing their organic status, efficacy, purity of product, supplier relationships, long-term partnership opportunities, environmental footprint and impact, and fair trade and social impact.
- We maintain an ongoing qualification screening process with all suppliers to ensure a level of quality and traceability.
- We aim to visit our primary suppliers regularly to assess the health and well-being of the farm, from the people and their working conditions to the crops. Members of our leadership team often visit annually.
- We work hard to forge and maintain long-term, healthy, and mutually beneficial relationships that support direct trade. For example, we have been in relationships with our primary suppliers for over 10 years!
- Our primary suppliers have their own social and environmental responsibility programs in place, spearheading community projects that are meaningful to them within their own community. This shows their commitment to ethical practices and operating with integrity and kindness.
- We offer pre-financing to our established partners, as encouraged by the fair trade principles we follow. Producers typically have to wait until well after harvest time to receive payment, but paying ahead provides early funding and financial assurance.
- We invest in communities. For example, in 2021, we donated $20,000 to our supplier community in India to support them during the covid crisis. This was not a requirement of our fair trade certification or of the principles we follow, but it felt important to us to offer extra support in a time of need. This donation was applied where it was most needed, supporting farmers and those who needed supplies, medications, and more.
Even with our commitment and longstanding efforts to uphold fair trade across our entire supply chain, we sometimes fall short.
In some cases, we only need small quantities of some ingredients, making direct sourcing more difficult. The further removed we are from the source of the herbs, the harder it is to have full access to all the information about the practices on the ground. In answer, we work hard to find partners we trust to uphold our same values and commitments.
The pandemic has also presented new challenges, encouraging us to try to find new and creative ways to conduct remote audits, which are an important way for us to access accurate information about the social and environmental welfare of the farming communities.
Another reason why some ingredients or products aren’t certified is due to where they are sourced. Currently, there are not yet any Fair for Life or FairWild producers in the US.
We hope to support American growers in pursuing fair trade certification. In the meantime, the benefits make domestic sourcing worthwhile as it helps diversify agriculture, reduces our carbon footprint from transportation of the herbs, and supports more American growers closer to home.
As the interest and demand for herbal products continues to grow, our commitment to fair trade principles is more important than ever. We are committed to certifying as many of our products as possible through our participation with Fair for Life and FairWild, as well as upholding our own steps to meeting fair trade principles where third party certification is unavailable.
We take great pride in being at the leading edge of providing fairly traded herbs to the Ayurvedic community, ever since our inception over 25 years ago. At the same time, we know that there is always room to grow and improve and we remain committed to pursuing the highest standards of sourcing and trading integrity as we move forward.