Lamb, director of the Fairtrade Foundation, explains how turning points
in the organisation’s history have encouraged public and media interest
FAIRTRADE HAS WON a special
place in people’s hearts. While the complexities of world trade can
defeat even specialists, Fairtrade cuts right through to people’s
kitchen cupboards. Fairtrade centres on the farmer in the field, the
manager in the supermarket, the procurement officer at work and each of
us with our shopping trollies. This is also what makes Fairtrade an
interesting story for so many different journalists – business,
consumer affairs, and local interest.
The Fairtrade Foundation was set up in the early 1990s as a positive
practical means for people to address the trade inequalities that spell
poverty for too many worldwide.
By choosing goods, from tea and
coffee to bananas and oranges, with the Fairtrade Mark, the public can
have a direct impact on creating a fair deal for farmers and workers in
In the early days, it was a struggle to get a few lines in the back pages as a worthy initiative beloved of the few.
journalists are reporting on Fairtrade’s rising popularity, with
coverage ranging from the celebrity Fairtrade cookbook covered in OK
magazine last month, references in new glossy monthly Psychologies and
detailed features in specialised trade press such as The Grocer.
with over 1,000 catering and retail products and sales of £140m in
2004, Fairtrade is embedded in the food industry’s consciousness.
Fairtrade still represents a small slice of the food market, but
Fairtrade products are beginning to achieve market shares of four per
cent in coffee (with 18 percent in the premium roast and ground sector)
and five per cent in bananas. Not enough by a long way given the
problems facing farmers – but enough to be noticed.
points in the rise of Fairtrade have sparked media interest – notable
stories include the Co-op’s decision to switch all their own-brand
block chocolate and coffee to Fairtrade, M&S selling 100 per cent
Fairtrade coffee in their cafÃ©s and Tesco’s introduction of Fairtrade
Stories about the human impact of unfair trade rules also
attract significant interest. As The Economist wrote (3 July 2004),
“sharpening social consciences” is one reason driving Fairtrade
chocolate sales. Certainly Fairtrade is part of a growing public
interest in how their food, clothes and other goods are produced and
their reluctance to have bargains at someone else’s expense.
with the anonymity of a vast globalised economy dominated by huge
multinational companies, consumers are seeking out the people at the
heart of trade – from local farmers’ markets and Jamie Oliver’s school
dinners to Fairtrade.
At the Fairtrade Foundation we are part of
an international umbrella body setting global standards including
minimum prices that cover the costs of sustainable production, with a
premium to invest in the future.
Smallholders, or workers, must
be organised and decide democratically how to invest the Fairtrade
premium – in healthcare, education, training, better production methods
or diversification – activites which enable a process of development
and change to take place. It is a unique system.
Awareness of the
Fairtrade Mark, now recognized by one in two people, has mainly spread
by word of mouth thanks to a national network of committed supporters
who are active locally in their town halls, workplaces, schools and
The beauty of Fairtrade for them, and for the local
and regional press, is the direct link between concrete local activity
(for example, a council deciding to drink only Fairtrade coffee) and
tackling global poverty. As John Vidal wrote in The Guardian (26
February 2003), Fairtrade is “one of Britain’s most active social
The result? The mark now has mass appeal and over the past five years sales have been growing by around 40 per cent a year.
major promotional push is Fairtrade Fortnight every March. Supporters,
including founding organisations such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and the
Women’s Institutes, organise activities which generate national and
regional media coverage.
Events range from local debates, eye-catching stunts or open-air fairs to tasting stands in offices, churches and schools.
the highlights are always the visits from farmers who tour the country,
explaining in person the impact of Fairtrade for their families and
communities and giving media interviews. The farmers gain as much from
meeting at first-hand those at the other end of the supply chain – the
people who buy their produce.
Fairtrade is at heart all about such partnerships with producers, and the scale of the task before us is immense.
vision is to make Fairtrade the norm. To do that we will continue
revealing to companies, government and the media the unstoppable public
appetite for trade justice.What the mark means
The Fairtrade Mark guarantees farmers a fair and stable price for their products
The Fairtrade Mark guarantees extra income for farmers and estate workers to improve their lives
The Fairtrade Mark guarantees a greater respect for the environment
The Fairtrade Mark guarantees small farmers a stronger position in world markets
The Fairtrade Mark guarantees a closer link between consumers and producers
George Alagiah, BBC news presenter and patron of Fairtrade Foundation
REPORTING ON THE EARLY DAYS OF FAIRTRADE
As the BBC’s first developing world correspondent between 1989 and
1994 my work was to bring some of the same issues that the Fairtrade
Foundation deals with in a practical way to the attention of the
When you do ten years of reporting on disaster you do end up asking
yourself when the phone goes again “Why? Why is it happening again and
again?” Instead of just reporting it, you begin to want solutions.
came to the conclusion during that time that so many of the wars and
disasters that I had reported on could have been prevented if only
people had what I call the financial freedom to say “no”. A regular
steady income is the best guarantee against social and political
There seemed a link between what I was doing in Africa and the work of the Fairtrade Foundation.
It is the desperate and the poor who are most susceptible to unscrupulous politicians.
The Fairtrade movement is about putting money in the backpocket.
not instead of aid, but I do think it has something that aid doesn’t
have, which is a direct exchange between a consumer here and a producer
there, and to my mind cuts out an awful lot of the bureaucracy and the
middle-men and women who can get in the way of aid.
perception of Fairtrade has changed enormously. When I was developing
world correspondent, it was such a challenge to mention on air things
like Fairtrade. Now, instead of a maverick subject, it has become much
more part of the mainstream.
But you have to keep working at it –
there are lots of issues that still need to be explained. Live 8 was an
easy thing to do, and I was pleased to be part of the BBC whole Africa
season. But because Live8 was built around celebrities and a fairly
joyous theme, it was fairly easy. The tough stuff is to follow it up
and that’s the challenge – to explain the issues behind it, such as
debt and trade.