Along with Mother’s Day, Valentine’s is the biggest event of the year for flower sellers in Switzerland. But while more than 1 million red roses are expected to be sold for the “day of love”, only half are estimated to carry a fair trade label.
Though the numbers have increased dramatically in recent years thanks to the efforts of Swiss supermarkets, more recently they have stagnated because professional florists are dragging their feet.
Chris Oluoch, the manager overseeing the flower trade for Fairtrade International in Africa, is disappointed about the slump. Small local flower shops in Switzerland sell virtually no fair trade roses, he explained to Swiss public television, SRF.
Whilst small local businesses pioneered the sale of organic vegetables, with flowers, it was the Swiss retailers which were more active in introducing fair trade produce, Oluoch said.
Today, big supermarket chains like Migros and Coop almost exclusively sell roses carrying a sustainability label such as that of Max-Havelaar.
Urs Meier, CEO of the Association of Swiss Florists, told SRF that professional florists are hesitant to introduce the label “because naturally one doesn’t want to have the same products as the big retailers”.
Meier is convinced, however, that fair trade flowers – and not just roses – will become so popular that florists will have no choice but to integrate them into their stock eventually.
A recent representative study commissioned by the Association showed that 85% of Swiss customers would be happy to pay more for roses which have been ethically and sustainably produced.
Women would be particularly interested in buying such flowers, the study found. According to Melanie Dürr, spokeswoman for fair trade label Max Havelaar, “women-to women’s solidarity” is a crucial driver of the fair trade movement generally.