Carrefour and Max Havelaar – 20 years of a fairtrade partnership


Carrefour was France's first mass-merchandising retailer back in 1998 to sell a Max Havelaar-certified fairtrade product. Twenty years later, Carrefour and NGO Max Havelaar have together made numerous commitments at international level and several hundred items are now on sale in Carrefour stores.

Max Havelaar’s French branch will be celebrating its 25th birthday this year at a major conference on 9 November at the Senate. As one of the organisation's long-standing partners, Carrefour will be represented by Bertrand Swiderski, the Group's head of CSR. The Max Havelaar Foundation was set up in the Netherlands in 1988 to bring about a fairer kind of international trade by paying producers more for their products, thus providing them with the financial means to lift themselves out of poverty. Max Havelaar does not sell or purchase any merchandise. Instead, it awards its label to products which meet “Fairtrade” criteria: fair prices must be paid to producers, products must be traceable, employees must enjoy good working conditions, the environment must be safeguarded, etc.

In all of the countries in which the NGO operates, Max Havelaar works on giving fairtrade products easier access to domestic markets. In France, Carrefour was the first mass-merchandising retailer back in 1998 to sell a fairtrade product: Malongo coffee made by small-scale producers. Many Max Havelaar-certified products have since been added to Carrefour's shelves, alongside Alter Eco, Ethiquable, Lobodis and many other brands. In 2017, 341 fairtrade products were on sale in Carrefour stores. And last year, this product offering generated nearly €1.5 million in development bonuses for cooperatives, in addition to the fairer purchase prices paid to producers.

A fairtrade and organic Carrefour range

In 2006, Carrefour passed another fairtrade milestone by launching its own range of products in partnership with Max Havelaar. A range of own-brand products which now numbers 25 in five different lines: bananas, coffee, cocoa, honey and tea. In terms of volume, more fairtrade bananas sell than any other kind: 15.8 million tonnes were sold in Carrefour stores in 2017, as opposed to 8.9 million tonnes in 2014.

"We pay more than €790,000 in development bonuses thanks to bananas", explains Bertrand Swiderski. “Producers are able to earn a living thanks to what they grow, they can ensure the long-term existence of their business initiatives and they produce better-quality bananas. Local communities also benefit from the impact of fairtrade – both in terms of their economic development and in terms of improvements in their living conditions. All of these levers help ensure the sustainability of the product line”.

As well as being fairtrade, all the products in the Carrefour-Max Havelaar range are grown using organic farming methods. "The organic fairtrade banana was launched in 2014", continues Bertrand Swiderski.  “We already had an organic alternative, but we were absolutely certain that combining the two would be mutually beneficial for both producers and our customers. It really was a huge risk for Carrefour, but one that was absolutely necessary for the food transition.
Our aim was for a third of the total volumes of bananas purchased to be from our organic fairtrade network. And that is currently the case – thanks to our customers, they are selling. Above all, it's increase in demand from “boss-consumers” which has enabled this change in scale”.

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