Fairtrade has a committed program of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) that supports learning and improvement.
The Fairtrade system uses monitoring and evaluation activities to improve our understanding of how being part of Fairtrade is benefiting producer organizations and their members, and to generate recommendations and analysis in support of increased effectiveness and impact. This information is used to improve the Fairtrade Standards, Fairtrade producer support, Fairtrade certification, and other Fairtrade’s activities, in order to deliver greater positive impacts for participating farmers and workers and their organizations.
The Fairtrade MEL Program, which is fully compliant with ISEAL’s Impacts Code, collects regular monitoring data from all producer organizations holding Fairtrade certification. As such, regular monitoring covers all products and all countries where certified producer organizations are present. Market progress is monitored by the marketing-facing organizations present in countries where Fairtrade is sold; market data is shared with and consolidated by Fairtrade International on an annual basis. The monitoring data form a core basis for our understanding of the dynamics of how certification is developing, and how the benefits of Fairtrade are being distributed between products, geographies, and producer organizations. The scope of the monitoring program has recently been expanded to include new indicators, and it is realistic that many of the outcomes and impacts of Fairtrade can only be assessed through in-depth research. Much of the data gathered through the monitoring process has been published annually since 2009 and can be accessed here.
An ongoing program of commissioned research is an important component of the Fairtrade MEL system. In-depth research gives us a detailed picture of what is happening to Fairtrade producers and their communities, and why. It allows us to gather information about farmer and worker experiences and perceptions. It brings contextual analysis and explanation that monitoring data cannot yield. For that reason we maintain ongoing commitment to funding outcome and impact evaluations, as well as other types of in-depth research, to complement the monitoring program. All of our impact evaluation reports are published and can be accessed here.
We seek to ensure that impact and outcome evaluations employ mixed methods to generate robust qualitative and quantitative findings. Also, where financially and logistically possible we require researchers to integrate a counterfactual into the evaluation research.