It’s Fairtrade Fortnight, and 25 years after the Fairtrade mark was launched in the UK it’s worth asking how much the movement has achieved, and why it still matters today.

25 years of Fairtrade

Over 90% of UK consumers recognise the Fairtrade logo; a real testament to how well the movement has done and how influential the campaign’s bigger supporters, such as Divine chocolate, have been. It’s still the industry standard for ethically sourced and fairly traded goods, and although most commonly associated with cocoa, the Fairtrade standard applies to commodities such as coffee, cotton, even gold.

Why is Fairtrade still needed?

There are several threats to the continued authority of the Fairtrade stamp.

For starters, supermarkets are increasingly trying to set up their own ethical frameworks and seals of approval. Sainsbury’s tried to launch their own “fairly traded” mark back in 2015, and faced severe backlash for it from consumers, no doubt worried that whatever trading criteria Sainsbury’s came up with wouldn’t be as favourable to growers as the industry-accepted Fairtrade standard.

And that’s one of the main benefits of a widely acknowledged system of standardisation – we can all agree what “Fairtrade” means, and what it doesn’t.

When we launched back in 2013, we were a consumer brand to begin with. One of the most common objections we heard from our most ardent eco-warrior customers was that they had found a coffee brand that although not Fairtrade, they were sure was more ethical, more beneficial to farmers than the Fairtrade system. Having looked into a few of these, you could see how you could make cases both for and against. A great example of a “beyond fairtrade” coffee is Doi Chang Coffee, a US-based coffee company that buys beans for more than the Fairtrade price, and also operates a 50% profit share scheme with the Thai coffee farmers.

However, the claims “ethically sourced” or “sustainably produced”, without any sort of governing body backing them up, can risk being a marketing spin; a cynical trick used by brands to make their products seems more noble than they really are. While flawed (for example, once certified, Fairtrade doesn’t specify how much an end good can be sold for, allowing for huge mark-ups by distributors that may not be passed back to the farmer), the Fairtrade mark is at least a guarantee that certain criteria have been met in order to earn the logo. For a lot of people, that peace of mind is what they’re choosing when they look out for and choose Fairtrade certified products.

And while much has been achieved in the 25 years Fairtrade has been around, it’s clear there’s still much to be done, particularly when it comes to women and children’s rights in many of the coffee-producing parts of the world.

New campaigns for 2019

Fairtrade Fortnight have a couple of really exciting campaigns they’re supporting this year.

She deserves £1.86

Studies have shown that a cocoa farmer in West Africa needs to earn £1.86 to get by, but that on average they’re only paid 76p. For women, the situation is even more dire, as they will often be combining childcare with household work, as well as working full time. They’ll also need to transport products to market.

Fairtrade Fortnight is campaigning for #SheDeserves, calling for better provisions for women workers in Africa, from running water, to access to doctors, to fairer pay.

Living Income

Connected to prices is this campaign focussed on increasing the amount cocoa farmers are paid in West Africa. A recent study found that only 12% of households in Cote d’Ivoire are earning a living income, defined as the amount of money needed for every member of the household to be able to get adequate nutrition, drink clean water and access healthcare.

Fairtrade Fortnight are calling for a rise in the retail price of chocolate, to ensure that enough money is passed back to the producers to ensure a decent standard of living for them and their families.

Sign the petition

Still as politically active as ever, the Fairtrade foundation have a petition you can sign to call on the government to put poverty and international trading fairness at the top of its agenda.

Sign the petition here.

How you can help

1. Be aware of what you’re buying

Whether you’re religiously sticking the Fairtrade mark or not, take an active interest in what you buy; it’s the most direct tool you have to help or hinder the plight of millions of farmers across the world. The worst offenders for unfairness are cocoa buyers, so where you can, buy Fairtrade chocolate such as Divine.

Other goods to watch for are tea, coffee, bananas, cotton (rugs as well as clothing), gold, wine and even flowers. All of these products can be found with the Fairtrade logo, meaning you know that a fair price has been paid to the producer, and the Fairtrade Premium (the extra money paid) has been put to good use, either re-invested back into the business or in improvement programmes such as housing or employee training.

You have the power to create change!

2. Lobby your employer

Does your workplace offer tea or coffee? Is it Fairtrade? If not, consider getting a petition going in the office to ask your purchasing manager to switch to a Fairtrade brand. Companies have a real opportunity to affect change, and it can be a huge PR and CSR win.

Switching to Fairtrade doesn’t have to mean a hike in budgets, either. Our House Roast is our cheapest Fairtrade coffee and costs just £11.50 per kg. We also offer discounts for charities and non-profits, public sector clients, as well as hairdressers and HORECA clients.

3. Get involved in the campaign

Sign the Fairtrade Fortnight petition, or you could even host your own Fairtrade event, maybe a coffee morning or something around cocoa prices – we think a Chocolate Party would be an excellent idea! Maybe charge your guests £1.86 to reinforce the Living Income message, and serve a (Fairtrade) hot chocolate and slice of cake.

Or you could do some fundraising. The Fairtrade Foundation website has great tips on how to do this.

4. Share on social media

Just showing your interest on social media can have a huge impact; the more people see campaigns like #SheDeserves being supported, the better the chance of it getting media attention and putting pressure on governments and policy makers to actually make a change.

There’s still so much to achieve… But for now, we’re backing Fairtrade. It’s a surprise to us how hard it still is to source specialty-graded, Fairtrade certified coffee, but you can rest assured that every coffee we sell on Underdog is a minimum of Fairtrade (a few, such as Tromso, are also organic).

Please feel free to get in touch and let us know of any great Fairtrade brands you think we should work with, we’re always looking for ways to team up and do as much good as we can.

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