Fairtrade Launches a Pilot to Tackle Challenges in the Wild Berry Industry in Finland

Fairtrade Launches a Pilot to Tackle Challenges in the Wild Berry Industry in Finland - featured image
Published: 07.03.2024

Fairtrade Finland has initiated a pilot project in collaboration with Polarica, Arctic International, Kesko and Valio, involving the entire supply chain of the wild berry industry. The aim of the pilot project is to create local certification criteria for wild berries to solve the challenges related to berry picking industry in Finland.

One of the objectives of the pilot is to tackle the complexities associated with berry picking in Finland. Moreover, recognizing the human rights challenges with berry-picking activities, it addresses concerns related to working conditions, earnings, and recruitment costs of foreign workers during the berry-picking season 2024.

"Fairtrade has decades of experience in developing countries for preventing the types of human rights risks that also affect wild berry picking in Finland. I believe that by working together with the pickers, the supply chain and our stakeholders, we can also find sustainable solutions to these issues in Finland," says Fairtrade Finland's Executive Director Janne Sivonen.

The Criteria Involves the Entire Supply Chain

The pilot will assess the feasibility of establishing Fairtrade-compliant certification criteria for domestic wild berry production processes that take human rights comprehensively into account. The project is scheduled to run until autumn 2024, with the criteria set to be ready for implementation during summer 2024 picking season.

The Fairtrade certification criteria are recognized as the most researched and ambitious in the world. The berry criteria now being drawn up will create a completely new operating model for Finland's wild berry industry, aimed to bring about concrete changes in the working conditions, earnings, recruitment practices and costs, as well as in the organisation of the pickers.

A broad, multisectoral group of stakeholders will be consulted when creating the criteria, including the pickers, companies, and authorities. The criteria will comply with international human rights norms, such as the principles of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

This is the first time that Fairtrade Finland is working on criteria related to domestic products. The criteria regarding the use of the Fairtrade mark prohibit discrimination, forced labour and the exploitation of child labour, and they promote equality and democracy.

Aiming for Responsibly Produced Domestic Wild Berries

Polarica and Arctic International have operated in the domestic berry industry for a long time and see development opportunities for the entire industry in the pilot project.

"Polarica is committed to responsible operating methods, and we want to renew the berry industry sustainably from both environmental and human perspectives," says Mari Onkamo, CEO, Polarica Group.

The retail sector is hoping to procure responsibly produced domestic wild berries.

"We have a long-term, systematic cooperation with our partners to ensure the responsibility of the products. This pilot project is a continuation of the close discussions with the suppliers, and in order to solve the challenges of the berry industry, it is important that the whole supply chain is involved in the pilot", says Timo Jäske, Sustainability Director, Kesko's grocery trade.

"Our aim is to buy responsibly produced domestic wild berries. To ensure this, we call for active cooperation between the berry picking companies, berry buyers, civil society organisations and supervisory authorities. With Fairtrade's expertise, experience and international networks, our goal is to create the criteria and an operating model that promotes ethical berry picking in Finland", says Valio's Sustainability Director Hanna Hiekkamies.