Institute for Marketecology (IMO) FAQ

Who is IMO and what do they do?

Since 1990, the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) has been a leading international certification and inspection agency, specializing in the certification of organic and sustainable products. IMO is a non-profit organization and certifies a wide range of food and non-food products.

In 2006, IMO expanded its certification program to include social and Fair Trade criteria as part of its "Fair for Life" program. IMO's certification standards for this program incorporate the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and reflect the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) social criteria. IMO also recognizes as equivalent the Fairtrade Lableing Organization (FLO) standards.

Are IMO Fair Trade and Social certified products also certified organic?

Not necessarily. Organic is a separate certification. However, to be IMO Fair Trade and Social certified, companies must meet certain environmental criteria as part of their annual audits, which includes either being certified to an organic standard or meeting industry specific production criteria for water conservation, energy management and climate change, ecosystem management, and waste management. Most of Equal Exchange's products are certified (and labeled) as both fairly traded and as organic, each by the relevant certifier.

Do farmers or farmer organizations have to pay to be part of IMO's Fair Trade and certification program?

Yes. As with organic certification and other Fair Trade certifications, farmers pay a fee for certification services. However, because IMO recognizes FLO certification, if a farmer organization is FLO certified, they do not have to pay an additional fee to be part of IMO's Fair Trade program. IMO offers both organic and Fair Trade inspection as a combined audit, which may reduce fees for farmer organizations that choose that option.

How can I learn more about IMO and their Fair Trade and Social certification program?

Visit the IMO Group website or the Fair For Life website.

How does IMO's Fair Trade and Social certification differ from TransFair USA's Fair Trade certification?

For TransFair USA certification, farmer organizations are certified by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO) and the trade transaction between the farmer organization and the U.S. company is certified by TransFair USA. IMO certifies farmer organizations, the trade agreements between the farmer and the U.S company, and the U.S. business' internal practices as well. IMO publishes participating companies' audit information on their website, which allows for a more transparent sharing of information for every part of the supply chain.

IMO has its own set of Fair Trade standards that are substantially similar to FLO standards. Further, they recognize as equivalent the FLO standards if farmers are already certified through the FLO system. IMO's approach to Fair Trade pricing focuses on ensuring that the Fair Trade price covers the cost of production and an additional social or development premium. The focus is on transparency of the pricing agreement between the buyer and seller, sustainable pricing, and social premiums. IMO's standards require that this transparent pricing agreement applies to all purchases by that buyer from that supplier. IMO audits those purchases to make sure they are appropriate and fair. *Equal Exchange has set our own minimum pricing standards that exceed both TransFair USA and IMO pricing standards.

What must U.S. companies do to offer IMO Fair Trade and Social certified products?

U.S. companies must trade fairly with producers and open their doors to have their own practices audited.

What other organizations have products that are certified by IMO?

IMO certifies as Fair Trade over 80 organizations worldwide, including a growing number of companies in the U.S. Some of the U.S. companies include:

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps (http://www.drbronner.com)

Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products Inc. (http://www.guayaki.com)

Interrupcion Fair Trade (http://www.interrupcionfairtrade.com)