Options for Code of Conduct IFOAM traders



The preamble of a code of conduct sets the stage for its application across a number of categories. These include: the identification of expected users of the code, the responsibilities accepted by observance of the code and the scope of application of the code.

Suggestions for Concepts to be included in the Preamble:

1. The code is developed for trading companies, working according to the aims and standards of organic agriculture as laid down in the IFOAM Basic Standards for Organic Production and Processing. It provides a concise statement of minimum labour, human rights and trading norms and standards for IFOAM traders.

2. In adopting the Code of Conduct, the trading company recognises its responsibilities to workers for the social and environmental conditions under which its products are made or its services are provided. These responsibilities extend to all workers producing or providing products or services for the trading company whether or not they are employees of the trading company.

3. The company pledges to make observance of the code a condition of any agreement that it makes with contractors and suppliers and to require them to extend this obligation to their sub-contractors. The trading company will, prior to placing orders with principal suppliers, engaging contractors and subcontractors or granting licenses (franchises), assess whether the provisions of this Code can be met.

4. The company pledges to observe all ILO conventions relating to labor welfare, as well as the UN Charter of Rights for Children, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the IFOAM Social Justice Standards (10) and Recommendations, on which this code is based.

5. The code establishes only minimum standards that must not be used as a ceiling or to discourage collective bargaining.

6. The company shall comply with all national laws and legal regulations. Nothing in this Code of Conduct shall affect any law, judgement, custom or agreement, which ensures more favourable conditions for the employees concerned than those provided for by the Code of Conduct .

7. The participants ensure that all workers are aware of the contents of the IFOAM social justice chapter (Basic standards) and the Code of Conduct by clearly displaying an approved text of the chapter on social justice and last approved version of the Code of Conduct at a location which is accessible and frequently visited, and by verbally informing all employees. These documents shall be displayed in English and translated into the major local language (s).

8. Trading Activities shall not violate indigenous peoples claims on land or any resources of vital importance to their way of life.


One point for discussion is the nature of supply chain relationships and the strength of enforcement of the code. The relationship can be defined in terms of continual improvement whereby traders work with suppliers to improve the social and environmental conditions to comply with the code; this implies a gradual process. Alternatively, observance with the code can be seen as a prerequisite for doing business as seen in point 3 above. A third approach involves differentiating between current suppliers and new suppliers. For current suppliers, the focus is on continual improvement and working with the suppliers to meet the requirements of the code. For new suppliers, observance is a prerequisite.

If the concept of continual improvement to meet and then to exceed the minimum requirements set out in the code of conduct is accepted, then the commitment by traders to continual improvement could be reflected in the preamble.

email: info@novotrade.nl
last updated: 24 october 2000
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