Fairtrade: “responsible capitalism in action”


The start of Fairtrade Fortnight begins with the news that Fairtrade products are continuing to buck the economic trend and look set to continue growing throughout the next year.

It is estimated that the sales of Fairtrade products in 2011 were worth £1.32 billion, an increase from £1.17 billion in 2010. Cocoa and sugar saw a significant increase throughout 2010, a growth of 34% and 21% respectively. And bananas, coffee and tea all saw steady growth.

All of which is good news as we begin 2012’s Fairtrade Fortnight.

The theme for this year’s fortnight is ‘Take a Step’, which encourages the public to do make one step, big or small, to support Fairtrade produce. It could be something as simple as inviting a friend out for a Fairtrade coffee. Once you’ve made your step, add it to the website to help reach the target of 1,500,000 – as of the time of writing, the current total stands at 85,980 so there is plenty of room for more steps.

Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said, “Fairtrade is an example of responsible capitalism in action”.

She added, “We believe that responsible businesses are those who don’t just tackle the company bonuses at the top – but take steps to ensure a fairer deal for the workers and farmers at the bottom of the supply chain too”.

“The commercial reality is that forward thinking companies are showing leadership in committing to Fairtrade, realising that, as well as it being the right thing to do, they need to invest in smallholders, developing better, longer-term relationships to ensure the future supply of commodities like cocoa, coffee, sugar, tea, fruit and more.”

The Ethical Superstore fully supports Fairtrade Fortnight and what it is achieving and is offering £5 off orders over £50 for the duration. Chief executive Andy Redfern believes that even more should and could be done and said, “we need to make giant leaps not small steps in order to change people’s perception of Fairtrade and, as a result, increase the amount of Fairtrade products being purchased.

Fairtrade is also starting to make a lot of business sense. Continued growth in sales of Fairtrade products has seen a change in supermarket attitudes. The Co-operative has long championed Fairtrade goods and recently announced a new banana sourcing policy that will mean 100% of bananas sold will be Fairtrade, with 50% sourced from smallholder producers. The Co-operative has also pledged as part of its ‘Ethical Plan’ that if products can be labelled as Fairtrade, they will be.

The Co-operative’s group chief executive Peter Marks said the switch to 100% Fairtrade bananas in more than 4,000 Co-operative stores shows the commitment to the Fairtrade way. Marks added, “Despite the economic downturn, Fairtrade sales in the UK continue to grow, and support for Fairtrade from our own customers and members is a strong as ever”.

A report from The Co-operative last year found that ethical goods were worth £46.8 billion, and that the sale of Fairtrade products had gone up by 36%.

Click to enlarge.

So, when you do your weekly shop, not just for the next two weeks but long into the future, think ‘Take a Step’ and help offer farmers and workers the opportunity to achieve fairer wages and safer conditions by seeking out Fairtrade produce.

Photo: Bruno Girin via Flickr

Infographic: Ben Willers

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