What is Fairtrade Fortnight?
In 2019 Fairtrade fortnight runs from 25th April 2019 - 10th March 2019. Fairtrade Fortnight sets aside two weeks every year to promote more awareness in consumers about where their products come from and the working and trading conditions of those involved in their production. In modern society, the link between food production and shopping trolley is somewhat removed, and we are not as aware of the process and the supply chain as our ancestors would have been. Even just a generation or two ago, those who lived through the blitz and accompanying food rations appear to have had a lot more respect, and more knowledge for the food supply chain that modern generations have. Are we raising a generation of children who think that food comes from the supermarket? I guess that is a topic for another blog though the fortnight does give us a chance to reach out to primary schools and sixth form colleges and educate them about farmers, organic farming and food production in a general sense, as well as in a business ethics sense.
So what is it and why does it matter?
It matters because it means the farmers and workers living in developing countries who grow our food and the cotton in our clothes get a better deal. When you see the Fairtrade mark or logo on a product, such as tea and coffee or bananas, you know that it has been certified by the Fairtrade Foundation who have looked and checked everything in the supply chain meets their high standards and a premium has been paid to benefit the local communities. They set social, environmental and economic standards to improve people's lives by ensuring that workers conditions are their rights are adhered to, the environment is being respected and their core principles are being met. The certification ensures more than a fair price has been paid to the farmers or cooperatives, it also ensures things, like there has been no child labour involved, no sweatshops involved and that the whole supply chain is ethical and increasingly sustainable. Sustainable means more much than just the commodities and materials used are sustainable, but that the business supplying the products is and can succeed long-term and improve the lives of the people working in it.
But the movement is not just about fair wages, it is also about empowerment, and the farmers and artisans are core to all the decisions being made about their products both locally and abroad. The idea is to help all of them become sustainable and be able to decide their own future, as well as combating poverty.
Why is the Premium paid?
The premium payment is one of the most important elements of the certification process. It is a vital part of ensuring that we are helping the poorest people in developing countries invest in their local communities. The premium goes directly into a communal fund to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions and is distributed as the farmers choose. So it's up to local people to make local decisions to help their own communities advance in the way that they feel is best. Examples of the premium use could be education, so local schools might be built or healthcare facilities or even something like improving local roads and infrastructure so they can get their produce to market more quickly and efficiently. The premium has also been used to help farmers before more sufficient and even train them in organic farming techniques. The premium is all about local improvement.
History of the Fairtrade Movement
The movement started by a bunch of activists in the 1970’s who went on to create the Traidcraft shop. Their rules and guidelines that they had developed became the basis for the movement when it was first formulated, as they were the only ones to be doing business like that at the time. They realised, nearly 50 years ago, that we had to ensure that trade was fair for everyone involved in in the process from the factory workers to the farmers. The Foundation was established in 1992 by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Traidcraft, Global Justice Now, and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. Member organisations now also include Banana Link, All We Can, National Campaigner Committee, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, People & Planet, Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Shared Interest Foundation, Soroptimist International, Tearfund and Commitment to Life and for their first guidelines they adopted the internal Traidcraft business rules. It is now part of a much wider Fairtrade International which collates organisations from around the world into a unified body who are responsible for ensuring the conditions are adhered to but also for raising public awareness of the programmes and the need to trade more ethically. The worldwide organisation unites 20 labelling initiatives across Europe, Japan, North America, Mexico and Australia/New Zealand as well as networks of producer organisations from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
History of the Fortnight
Barnaby Miln, the British social activist, was working as a Christian Aid consultant and set up the first one in 1997 in Scotland which was held from 1 to 14 March 1997. During that period Christian Aid and Oxfam supporters were sent a list of the top 85 supermarkets in Scotland and were asked to go in and ask them for ethical products. It was so successful that it quickly grew and in 1998 it was celebrated across the entire UK and is now celebrated in lots of countries worldwide.
How can you get involved?
There are several ways that you can sign up and become involved. From simple things like having a fairtrade chocolate bar and trying to buy as many certified products as you can. Or you do bigger things like help the foundation raise awareness, either by tweeting and posting on your facebook profile or other social media outlets. Or go a bit bigger and traditional and spreading the word locally by helping to promote or even organise involve events. Can you help run and organise a fete or a fair at your local school or church? If you are a student why not set up a fashion show using fairtrade clothes. If you are a foodie why not do some tasting events and encourage your local cafes and restaurants to use ethical produce during those weeks? Whilst the original activists when to supermarkets, it's easy to continue that practice and take it down the food chain, or even the fashion chain! If you are a teacher then use the fortnight as a chance to engage your pupils with the concept and the importance of helping the supply chain be sustainable, and even teach them about how our food is made!
It’s not just about bananas!
I think many people think the movement is just in relation to farmers and bananas, or tea & coffee. There are over 4,500 fairtrade products which carry the label, some of which may surprise you! Here is a list of just a few of them:
1. Ice cream - did you know Ben & Jerry's ice cream is certified as every single ingredient meets the criteria? They don’t just pay it lip service either, in 2015 Ben & Jerry’s paid $1,895,778 in social premiums to their small-scale farmers and farming co-ops around the world. That is a lot of premium help! They source their sugar from small-scale farmers who are part of the Belize Sugar Farmers’ Association, which is recognised as one of the leading role models globally in ethical sugar production. With such a huge proportion of the Belize population dependent on the sugar industry, the association premiums have been used, for example, to help manage the crops with alternative pest control and this has resulted in a huge reduction in the use of harmful pesticides. In other projects, the Ben and Jerry's premiums have built a new medical clinic, hired a nurse, installed solar panels and purchased water pumps, invested in schools and given local children school scholarships. So enjoy your ice cream knowing that by eating B&J’s you're helping small-scale farmers and their communities survive and succeed.
2. Socks! Who knew it went as far as bamboo socks? Thought clothing have a wide range of certified bamboo clothing which includes socks, underwear, tights, shifts, organic dresses and much much more! Next time you want to buy a new shirt, think about the premium and how you can help improve lives! They believe that sustainability and contemporary fashion can go hand-in-hand. They are the founding partners of The Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF). It’s a not-for-profit network that champions ethical production. They are also members of EFF’s Fellowship 500. Its goal is to bring together 500 pioneers and innovators dedicated to better sustainability in the fashion industry. Or even Pachamama Knitwear, which is gorgeous and cosy and yep, certified so wear your hoody with pride, knowing it helps!
3. Divine chocolate was one of the first chocolate bars to reach certification and it's such an inspiring story. Divine is actually owned by a cooperative of cocoa farmers from Ghana, and with help from chocolate industry experts, Twin Trading, and with fantastic support from The Body Shop, Christian Aid and Comic Relief, they decided to bring their chocolate bar to the UK mass market in 1997. They are unique as a chocolate company as they own it and make all the decisions themselves. It has proved a roaring success and is available in most supermarkets. Or try a new brand, Eat Your Hat chocolate, which is certified AND has completely compostable packaging, zero waste chocolate - we love it! I highly recommend their cardamom flavour, so unique and amazing.
4. Footballs! Yes, you can even get footballs with the logo on! It's all about playing fair, thankfully. Eh? But you don’t grow footballs so what has that got to do with farmers and the foundation? Well, this takes us to Pakistan and the factories in Sialkot, where 40 million footballs are made each year (or 60 million in world cup years, who knew the players needed so many…). 20% of the Pakistan people live on less than $1.25 per day. The factories making the balls, have the pieces cut by a machine (made up of 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons pieces), then screen printed by hand, then machine stitched together, although the top quality ones are still sewn by hand. 40,000 people in Sialkot work in the industry. In the 1996 world cup, it was reported how children as young as 5 were involved in the process, stitching footballs for up to 11 hours a day, as the adults did not earn enough to feed their families. Here the logo means that the workers now have decent wages, good working conditions, no child labour, and of course the much-needed premium. The premium in Sialkot has ensured that there is now safe, clean water which benefits the whole community. They have also invested in work transport, buses to bring workers to the factories, and spent money on books and school bags for children recognising the importance of education and even things like free eye clinics. It has drastically improved the lives of children and their families in this region, so we can see how certification is important worldwide on many different types of products.
5. Fairies, yes there are fair trade fairies! Made by Believe you can who felt that it was time to use traditional skills and techniques and tailor them to a modern market. The collection is designed in the UK and hand-made by WFTO approved producers in India. Their premium has helped fund 3 local schools and the school offers a chance for local working children in the community to learn in the evening where they are also provided with free books, transport and a hot evening meal. All workers receive free healthcare, as well as high-quality minimal cost healthcare, is provided for the community which helps over a thousand families in the surrounding rural area. In 2006 a brand new dental surgery was opened offering modern hygienic care at a minimal cost. Their premium also provides outreach clinics and even help with veterinary projects. These projects help teach basic care and animal husbandry for farmers and local villages. So buy your fairy knowing it really is being a fairy godmother!
We hope all the above has given you an appetite for more ethical products, and you understand why Danu is a fair trade shop and we hope in 2019 you get into the fortnight and help spread the word!