Fair Trade: An insider's view
I thought I’d post some articles from the website of Craig Sams, founder of ‘Green and Blacks’, the first company to gain Fairtrade accreditation on one of their products. The Maya Gold Story tells the story, or for a shorter version see the text of a speech entitled Ten Years Of Fairtrade. Young Methodists did…
I thought I’d post some articles from the website of Craig Sams, founder of ‘Green and Blacks’, the first company to gain Fairtrade accreditation on one of their products. The Maya Gold Story tells the story, or for a shorter version see the text of a speech entitled Ten Years Of Fairtrade.
Young Methodists did an Olympic style run for fair trade, carrying a torch in relays between various English towns, haranguing supermarkets and shops to stock this first Fairtrade product. The senior confectionery buyer at Tesco phoned up: “Here, what’s this product all these vicars are phoning me about? You better come in and see me.” Fairtrade was on the map, with a product that (nicely) encapsulated its ideals. Cafédirect and Clipper soon signed up and the Fairtrade market went bananas.
The City Hippy weblog has a new interview with Craig Sams. The latest part is quite interesting, asking why Green & Blacks has only ever had one product certified as ‘Fairtrade’.
The simple answer is that the FT Mark costs 2% of turnover if you are a standard organisation, although Traidcraft, Café Direct and Equal Exchange only pay 1% as they are perceived to be ‘giving something back.’ Over the past decade we’ve paid over £300,000 in FT fees, none of which has gone back to the Maya producers in Belize.
I can see the reasoning behind their choosing not to go for the Fairtrade mark on all of their products, though I can also see why sending 1-2% to a central source to (I assume) encourage new Fairtrade products is a good idea. I suppose this shows that it is important to know something about the ethical stance of a company as well as the special marks or whatever their products display.
Green and Blacks: Good
(and two tangential stories…)
Marks and Spencer: Good
Alliance and Leicester: Bad
Craig Sams’response about FT seems a little shortsighted. The £300,000+ may not have gone directly to their producers, but surely by supporting the FT organisation it has contributed to the growth of the FT sector, which in turn has been beneficial to a wide range of producers.
Besides who is paying the FT percentage – clearly it’s ultimately us the consumer and in return we get an independent benchmark system that we can use as we try to consume more ethically.
A few years back I headed up the switch of my company’s beverages to FT. We spoke to our existing supplier who wanted to charge an additionally 47% for FT products. I shopped around and found Traidcraft at just 3% above our current expenditure. We switched
Coffee supplier, concerned at losing such a big contract asked for a meeting. At which he first told blatent lies about the FT Mark (wholly owned by Cafe Direct apparently…) and then tried to persuade me that his coffee was effectively fairly traded anyway. When that didn’t fly, he magically offered to match Traidcraft prices on the FT brands our staff had chosen.
My point to him re his claims about their own coffee was this – I’m an Engineer, I have a remit to spend a small percent of my time driving through sustainability changes for the company – I do not have the time, energy, expertise or frankly inclination to reasearch your claims. What I need as a consumer is some independent body to do all that for me. Oh look here’s one that does just that!
So if you’re coffee is so fairly traded, why not apply for the FT status? Cos that way your consumers by paying a small add-on can be reassured about what they’re buying. Trust me it’ll be cheaper for us than trying to do our own research and hey given you were prepared to overinflate your prices by over 40%, my initial gut feeling re your concept of ethical trading ain’t good.
Maybe to be fair though, G&B’s felt that their brand was strong enough that people felt reasonably confident that the entire range was reasonably ‘ethical’ without the need to licence every product. Still…not very supportive of the wider FT movement though.
Thanks Liz – interesting thoughts.
Interesting comment from Craig Sams. In fact the reason Traidcraft etc get to pay a discounted licence fee is because they have made a 100% of any product line. ie where it is possible to have a product Fairtrade certified they have.
So if G&B certified all their chocolate instead of just one type (albeit the most important type in the portfolio) they too would be eligible for the discounted fee.
Aargh, where’s an edit window when you need one? What I meant to say was
‘…because they have made 100% switch to Fairtrade on any product line they can’
Comments are closed.