Now we need permission to be ethical!

The European Court of Justice ruled recently that it is lawful for the public sector to procure on ethical grounds. Given that the public sector is about 40% of the economy, that is a relief. The FairTrade Foundation has welcomed the ruling.

But they also said that organic or fairtrade labels couldn’t be used directly as the basis for decisions. The underlying social and enviornmental criteria need to be spelt out. That could cause a problem for smaller public bodies.

The underlying directives are being revised in any case. Hopefully the ruling enables simpler and more sensible directives to be drawn up, including enabling social criteria to be used in the more straightforward way that environmental criteria can currently.

But what was the European Commission doing in the first place bringing this action against a Dutch authority that was trying to buy fairtrade products?

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