Fairtrade Fortnight

The 16th Fairtrade Fortnight, the UK’s annual campaign to encourage its consumers to buy products stamped with the Fairtrade mark (as shown) in order to help farmers in developing countries, began on Monday, as it was announced that UK sales of Fairtrade goods were up by 12 per cent last year – to an estimated £799 million.

This year’s ethical push, billed The Big Swap, aims to rally people to switch their everyday grocery items in particular for Fairtrade equivalents. Which is now easier than ever, of course, given that more than 4,500 products are now licensed to carry the mark.

Both Ben & Jerry’s and Green & Black’s have recently declared that they will be 100 per cent Fairtrade by the end of next year; Ben & Jerry’s promising that their ice cream will be 100 per cent Fairtrade globally by the end of 2013.

Sainsbury’s has claimed itself ‘the world’s largest Fairtrade retailer’ following a ten per cent rise in sales of Fairtrade-certified goods – to £218 million in 2009.

The previous year, the Co-operative became the first UK supermarket to convert all its own-brand beverages to Fairtrade. It has supported Fairtrade since 1992.

Starbucks has pledged that all coffee sold in the UK and Ireland will be Fairtrade-certified, which would make it the largest purchaser of Fairtrade coffee in the world.

From last year, cosmetics brands could also carry the Fairtrade mark.

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight focus is on tea.

We drink more than a billion cups a day – 165 million, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the UK. Globally, the tea trade is worth nearly $4 billion and more than 20 million people in the developing world rely on it (some three million in Kenya alone), yet today’s producers receive barely half of what they did 30 years ago.

10 per cent of the tea sold in the UK is now Fairtrade, but the target is for that figure to rise to 50 per cent by 2012. If it did, the lives of millions around the world would alter drastically, as Mica Paris discovered on a recent visit to southern India.

Recent research found that two-thirds of UK consumers either buy Fairtrade tea already or would like their favourite brand to be Fairtrade. Subsequently, the five brands that, between them, account for 72 per cent of the UK tea market – PG Tips, Tetley, Twinings, Typhoo and Yorkshire Tea – were asked to switch all their products to Fairtrade. As yet, they haven’t done so.

By the way, all of Co-op’s, Marks & Spencer’s and Sainsbury’s own-brand tea is 100 per cent Fairtrade; Clipper has been carrying the Fairtrade mark since the mid-Nineties; and Cafédirect has been selling Fairtrade tea for over a decade (all their teas, coffees and hot chocolates are completely Fairtrade, in fact).

Buying Fairtrade products not only helps farmers and their families achieve a higher standard of living, but also sends a message to the movers and shakers: ‘I don’t agree with the current system that you have for so long manipulated. Its unfair trade rules keep people trapped in poverty; fairer means of trading could lift millions out of it, which would have consequences for all of us.’

Yet doesn’t Fairtrade also enrich those same exploitative forces while nicely covering up the less favourable practices of global household brands? (Personally, albeit somewhat tactlessly, I don’t care if Kit Kats are Fairtrade now; they’re still Nestlé.) Do you think the public are being deceived by such labels and shamed into paying more for them? Or doesn’t it matter if you can afford to buy them? After all, there’s exploitation and then there’s exploitation, and if you’re reading this you’re not one of the two billion people – roughly a third of the world’s population – still existing on less than $2 a day and unable to taste the fruits of their toil.

The Fairtrade Foundation’s target this year is for ‘swaps’: giving up a product in favour of a Fairtrade equivalent, ideally one million of them, proving that the UK wants producers in the developing world to get a better trade deal at long last.

As this is an international blog, many of you will not be able to give numerical support to this campaign, but we can all make a difference by changing our shopping habits. Ethical consumerism does change things. Your purse, wallet or plastic card of choice can, at times, prove itself to be equally effective as the pen you use to write letters of complaint, sign petitions or even mark ballot papers.

The domination of global agriculture by large corporations, combined with the ever-increasing influence of supermarkets in supply chains, has grown considerably: half the world’s coffee beans are purchased by Kraft, Nestlé, Proctor & Gamble, Sara Lee and Tchibo. The ten leading food retailers control around a quarter of the $3.5 trillion world food market, just three companies control a whopping 90 per cent of the world’s grain trade, and the top ten seed companies control almost half the $21 billion global commercial market.

Two billion of the world’s poorest people are dependent on small-scale farms, so you’d think it crucial that we support them. Doing so would increase food production and thus reduce global poverty, after all. They produce the bulk of many developing countries’ food (up to 80 per cent of Zambia’s, for example) and small, integrated farming systems have been shown to yield more per hectare in the long-term than larger ones. Vietnam, for example, has gone from being a food-deficit country to a major exporter of food due to higher productivity in family farms. It is now the second largest exporter in the world.

Add to this the obvious advantages of local farmers spending their income on local goods and services, which in turn boosts their local economies.

Supporting them would also help the environment: they manage a large share of the world’s water as well as vegetation cover, and farm far more sustainably than those industrial-scale, intensive monstrosities that trouble many of us so, thereby reducing soil erosion, increasing biodiversity and preserving soil fertility.

So, what exactly is Fairtrade? (Apparently, 30 per cent don’t know, so, should you fall into this category, allow me to try and explain.)

On the condition that small-scale farmers are organised, usually into democratically-run co-operatives (by being organised in this way, farmers increase their collective power and can claim a larger share of their profits, as opposed to being exploited by unscrupulous middlemen), and meet standards that promote sustainable agriculture, farmers receive a guaranteed minimum price for their goods, which covers their production costs and is above the world market price.

Fairtrade coffee producers in Nicaragua, for example, currently earn 20 cents per pound more than non-Fairtrade producers.

Coffee farmers in Oromia, Ethiopia, receive twice as much per pound of coffee beans by selling to Fairtrade buyers as opposed to private buyers. Considering that the average farmer produces around 1,300 pounds of coffee per year, if all of it was sold at the Fairtrade price rather than the conventional price, these farmers would earn $1,300 more each year.

Sadly, only a small proportion of their coffee is currently sold as Fairtrade, hence why farmers need the Fairtrade market to expand in order to attract more buyers.

The Fairtrade premium, an additional sum per kilo paid by Fairtrade buyers, is for social and community development. The Fairtrade premium received by the member societies of the Ankole Coffee Union in Uganda amounts to 10 cents per pound. The entire community now has access to clean water because of it.

The premium awarded to Mabale Tea Growers’ Factory, also in Uganda, has helped improve roads and erect leaf-sheds to protect the tea leaves from the elements during sorting. It has also helped build new classrooms and funded the construction of health clinic, both invaluable to the community.

Again, only around two per cent of Mabale’s tea is sold to Fairtrade buyers. If that suddenly became 22 or, better still, 82 per cent, think of the possibilities.

Of course, governments should act to support their farmers and protect them from exploitation. Yet if the people in the richest corners of the globe buy Fairtrade items, they play their small part in making things a lot better for a great many.

The farmers producing tea – the people behind your cuppa, if you like – can scarcely afford to drink their own product. Shouldn’t we, the ones fortunate enough to able to afford it and even more fortunate to be able to effect change through doing something so simple as buying one thing instead of another, at the very least help create for them a better standard of living? What an easy, almost effortless way to make a difference. Hell, we should even be ashamed of that.

Something else to consider is that, in developing countries last year, according to UN Millennium Development Goal figures, an estimated 50 to 90 million more people were thrown into extreme poverty.

I’d like to hear of your favoured Fairtrade products and swaps. Please take a moment to help the campaign to make every cup of tea in the UK Fairtrade by encouraging, in a few mouse clicks, the big five to switch to Fairtrade.

Oxfam are swapping tea for donations right now. In exchange for your unwanted goods, you will receive a free box of Cafédirect tea bags.

As a thank you for swapping to Fairtrade, Cadbury Dairy Milk has released an album entitled Big Swap Songs, which includes five UK chart hits covered by Ghanaian group, The Big Ghana Band. It is free to anyone who switches to any Fairtrade product during the fortnight. Download a free copy of the album by sharing which items you’ve swapped, or visit your local newsagents during the second week of Fairtrade Fortnight (that’s next week) to receive a free CD.

I very much enjoyed reading your views on this topic last year, so look forward to finding out if they’ve changed at all or if you’ve re-assessed any other consumerist habits for the better. Maybe you’ve become more cynical? If so, do tell. (Rainforest Alliance certification is something, no doubt, but 30 per cent just does not impress quite like 100, and it does smack of ‘greenwash’ to me.)

Apologies, naturally, that much of the above is of most relevance to UK-readers. Links to local campaigns or other Fairtrade retailers are very welcome.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

51 thoughts on “Fairtrade Fortnight”

  1. FE’D:

    Is it too simple of me to think that if we help others it helps us as well? So what are we waiting for?

    I drink a lot of tea. Twinings and Yorkshire mostly. I’d like to be able to help where ever I can. It makes me feel like I am at least trying to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. So thank you for any information you have given or that David’s bloggers will leave here.

    I would like to know about more that I can do that I may not be aware of.

    Jan

    1. Is it too simple of me to think that if we help others it helps us as well? So what are we waiting for?

      I’m with you, Jan. For any cynicism I may have about companies capitalising on widespread ‘green’ values, I still find myself supporting (some of) them through my purchases because, like you, I want to feel that I’m doing my small bit to move things forward in the right direction.

  2. I have been a Fairtrade convert for a while but I’ve only today heard about this Rainforest Alliance. I’ve only had a quick read of the article you linked to Fed, and didn’t finish it, because I have a lot of thoughts jumbling round my head about the entire global thing.

    My view is that we should maintain the habitat where a species lives (this includes humans) in this way we maintain the species.

    We should all seek to support initiatives that prevent further destruction of rainforests. Anyone see Panorama on BBC 1 the other night, (it will be repeated at 12.25am on Thursday night or is available on BBC iPlayer) about rainforest destruction to plant palm oil plants. Palm oil goes into a lot of convenience and snack foods WE eat. Its production is escalating to accommodate the biofuels market. Not only is this industry causing extinction TODAY of species, it is unlocking huge carbon reservoirs and will further contribute to global warming.

    As someone not very clued up on business methods or the politics of all this, (I view big business and politicians all as having some ulterior motive anyway, maybe because their methods seem so alien) I feel most strongly that it is possible for Fairtrade and Rainforest Preservation to work hand in hand for the same goal.

    WE have the power as you point out Fed to vote with our purses and our cards and wallets.

    Fed, thanks for this topic and your terrific piece of writing. 🙂

    ash (homo sapiens, planet earth)

    1. Thank you, Ash.

      I don’t mean to knock the Rainforest Alliance, just the very large multi-nationals that use its label when, with more effort and greater conscience, they could carry the Fairtrade label as well. (Isn’t the ultimate goal for everything to be Fairtrade? I hope so, then we wouldn’t need misleading labels.)

      I don’t think the standards set by the Rainforest Alliance are anywhere near high enough.

      A product (PG Tips, for example, made by the world’s largest tea company, Unilever) only has to contain 30 per cent of the certified ingredients, rather than the 100 per cent that the Fairtrade mark demands, to be stamped with the very snazzy Rainforest Alliance logo. So I do think it’s convenient that they can reach out to all those ethical shoppers and gain sales on the basis of a label that doesn’t have to make it clear, for obvious reasons, that only 30 per cent of its contents are helping to make a difference for the better.

      (It may well actually contain more than 30 per cent, of course, and I think with PG Tips it’s at least 50 – and it does say so on the box. But the great big ‘DO YOUR BIT’ is what catches the eye, and I think that says it all.)

      However, the two groups do have very different aims: the Fairtrade Foundation is about improving the lot of disadvantaged farmers through fair trading terms and the Rainforest Alliance is largely about protecting eco­-systems in the areas of production.

    2. It is so frustrating to be a part of a group so bent on destroying the very land/air that should be able to supply us with what we need without feeling we need to rip it apart to ‘make it better/suit us?’

      I know we are all guilty of this, so I am not excusing myself. So please don’t get me wrong. It is just that the education seems to get to us so slowly and after we seem to be ‘hooked’ by the products and way of life. Even in simpler times, though, things were not managed well. Just read The Devil in the White City and the conditions then may seem horrific to us now, but I wonder how people will view us in the future?

      Jan

    3. I didn’t think you were knocking them Fed, I think the two organisations should work collaboratively. 🙂

      I discovered I had heard about Rainforest Alliance after all, I’ve seen their logo on products. I had a good look around their web site, they have increased their efforts to help poor farmers since the article you linked to was published. Not only that, I’m quite excited to discover some of the other stuff they do.

      I’ve recently been doing some research into primates as part of a biodiversity and conservation project (on a course I’m doing). My primate is from South America and it has recently been downgraded on the IUCN red list of endangered species from Critically endangered to Endangered. Rainforest Alliance have been working to help farmers avoid cutting any more forest to expand their plantations.

      This good news for this Tamarin is partly due to RA.

      Yes, I’d like to see them tighten up on, for example, companies like the one Lorraine quoted that got the logo for cocoa products but use palm oil!

      Little by little though, let’s hope it’s all moving in the right direction.

      ash

    4. Ash,

      I saw it and this is the programme in summary.

      I’m disgusted that current labelling laws allow manufacturers to list palm oil as ‘vegetable oil’, without singling out the palm oil content.

      I wasn’t surprised that Proctor & Gamble and Unilever said that the amounts and types of oil they use can vary from week to week, so listing the palm oil content would be impossible.

      Just another reason why I never buy any of their products!

    5. I’m disgusted that current labelling laws allow manufacturers to list palm oil as ‘vegetable oil’, without singling out the palm oil content.

      l think it was Alessandra who mentioned a while back that the way to check if an anonymous vegetable oil listed as an ingredient was in fact palm oil was to check if any of the fat content was saturated fat – if it was, then it was palm oil.

    6. l think it was Alessandra who mentioned a while back that the way to check if an anonymous vegetable oil listed as an ingredient was in fact palm oil was to check if any of the fat content was saturated fat – if it was, then it was palm oil.

      It most definitely was: on the topic of World Environment Day.

      Thanks again for that, Alessandra.

    7. World Environment Day, I read that late last night. I was away for several months last year, I was in hospital at the time of your post Fed, I missed this completely.

      Very interesting reading. I feel a bit stupid now realising that you had covered the palm oil topic :v AND guilty for taking attention away from the extremely worthy cause you raised in this Fairtrade topic Fed.

      ash :! (dammit, I’m so slow sometimes!)

  3. A very difficult but interesting topic (even a very difficult long post to read and understand, at least for non English speakers :! ). A lot of information here once again and a lot of things to think about. Good. I found the Mica Paris article very interesting too.

    Fairtrade is not charity, it’s far better, it’s a real economic alternative to traditional (unfair) trade for developing countries, it’s respectful to human rights (prohibiting child labour, for example), to the environment. No pointless intermediaries. Based on equality.

    Of course, it has become fashionable (the bandwagon thing) to buy Fairtrade products. But is that a problem? The problem is to be able to recognise Fairtrade products. So many labels, very confusing.

    Here (France), we have l’Association Max Havelaar, a non-profit association. Don’t know if it’s the equivalent of the one you mentioned.

    Here is a link that shows about 170 brands sold in France under the Fairtrade label.

    And here, a link to sign a petition asking companies for ready-to-wear clothing to use Fairtrade cotton.

    Michèle

    1. Of course, it has become fashionable (the bandwagon thing) to buy Fairtrade products. But is that a problem? The problem is to be able to recognise Fairtrade products. So many labels, very confusing.

      Those most concerned with following fashionable trends are the middle class, and they’ve got the money to spend, so let them spend it, I say. 🙂

      It would be better to have labels exposing bad practice, don’t you think? With eye-catching logos, in suitable colours (red, mostly) and including lots of blocky exclamation marks for maximum effect.

      Contains lots of palm oil from land that was once a rainforest! Sewn together by soulless children robbed of their childhood and working in a cramped, stifling sweatshop! Unnecessarily tested on defenceless animals in the most horrific ways!

      Animal testing is the perfect example. Have you seen the variety of meaningless labels designed to assure (well, con) would-be buyers? The product may not have been tested on animals, but its ingredients probably were. And even if they weren’t, if the company that makes the product also makes products that ‘required’ tests to be carried out on laboratory animals, as they often do, buying it still means you’re inadvertently funding further tests.

    2. The product may not have been tested on animals, but its ingredients probably were. And even if they weren’t, if the company that makes the product also makes products that ‘required’ tests to be carried out on laboratory animals, as they often do, buying it still means you’re inadvertently funding further tests.

      Hear, hear!

      FEd, can you imagine? Labels exposing bad practice would turn supermarket shopping on its head because all those people buying the same brands would finally have to realise that they are funding the most cruel lab tests with every purchase. Perhaps even the display space Hoss spoke about would be wasted on them because consumers would refuse to buy these brands.

      If only it could happen.

    3. I can imagine, Stef. The monopoly would be broken and consumers would find themselves faced with some variety for the first time in a long time.

      The supermarkets could always (if forced, obviously, not through their own choice) start grouping products in relation to the ethics of the manufacturer, as opposed to simply putting them where the multi-nationals dictate by way of their vast display-space dominance. They could use traffic light colours, as they do to indicate the nutritional content in food now.

      Imagine the shame of having to go into the red zone…

      It would be a really interesting experiment, actually.

    4. Animal testing of products. Apparently there are laws that mean companies must test new products so they do. The OLD products aren’t good enough any more so they make new ones. Why aren’t the old products any good? Because people get bored of the old advertisement, or sight of the product or the scent so they change its formulation, packaging and re-market it.

      People are conned all the time by marketing ploys. I took great delight in telling a woman in the supermarket who was reading all the ingredients on bottles of bleach that all the ones with added stuff actually had LESS of the active ingredient, BLEACH, in them. They add perfumes, thickeners and all sorts of stuff and treble the price! Every time they change the perfume…

      The cheapest thinnest bleach is 100% bleach and will do the job. AND it’s usually less than £1 for about 2 litres.

      The cheapest, been around a long time, products are often better at doing the job.

      Testing makeup in rabbits eyes, vanity, don’t get me started.

      ash 8|

  4. I think buying Fairtrade is becoming more mainstream than it was – fashionable, even. In some cases, for example with Marks & Spencer own brand coffees, people are not always consciously buying Fairtrade, not everyone reads labels. It would be great if more companies adopted Fairtrade as standard.

    My youngest son’s school are working towards a Fairtrade School Accreditation, the kids are having great fun doing it. They buy in a limited range of goods (rice, jam, sauces and chocolate) and then sell them after school assemblies etc. The profit they make goes to school building projects in Africa. They learn to think about how and where the food is produced and the parents all get to buy bucket loads of Divine chocolate without the associated guilt, win-win!

    I’m really not so sure about the worth of Rainforest Alliance. I think it does fall under the heading of green-washing. Galaxy chocolate carries that certification as the cocoa in it conforms to that standard, unfortunately the palm oil that’s in there too doesn’t.

  5. Do you think the public are being deceived by such labels and shamed into paying more for them? Or doesn’t it matter if you can afford to buy them?

    I wish I could say that it doesn’t matter because if you can afford to buy them and it’s your decision, it’s down to you. But Fairtrade tends to cost more so we pay more which in turn makes the company bosses even richer. They must be laughing all the way to the bank during Fairtrade Fortnight.

    ‘Greenwash’ is right.

  6. i’ll swap my tea for fairtrade fortnight.

    i won’t be buying the five brands you mentioned until they completely switch to fairtrade. i’ve signed the petition asking them to.

    if they control 72% of the uk tea market, and if us brits drink 165 million cups a day, they can’t be short of a bob or two and should be doing more to help the farmers, because without the farmers there would be no tea in the first place!

  7. Good article here on Fairtrade wine.

    The Co-op seem to be doing 20% off all theirs this week (and presumably for the entire fortnight).

  8. The retail establishment where I work carries quite a few Fair Trade items. Here is a small list of what we carry and what other bloggers could look for when shopping if they want to support Fair Trade.

    These items carry the Fair Trade stamp.

    Wholesome Black Molasses
    Wholesome Organic Sugars, Cane, Powdered, & Brown
    Green & Black’s Organic Cocoa Powder
    Sunspice Organic Baking Chips
    Biggby French Roast Coffee (so far only the French Roast carries the Fair Trade Stamp at my store, do not know if the other varities will have the stamp)
    Celestial Teas carry the Ethical Trade Seal

    These are just a few of the items that people might use on any given day.

    Fair Trade is making some inroads into stores, but it is hard to get into markets where Kraft-Nabisco & Procter & Gamble are paying huge dollars for much of the display space.

    Hoss

  9. Thanks Fed for your informative info about Fair Trade. I personally drink Lifeboat Tea from Kenya. I lucked out on the flavour of this tea. I noticed Fair Trade wasn’t mentioned, but they may perhaps be included in the mixed. I don’t know.

    Secondly, I wrote my exam today after an intense 31 week course and aced the test. 😉

    Thirdly, GO CANADA, GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀

  10. By the way, I just noticed this map showing the Fairtrade organisations that cover participating countries, which may be of interest to some of you.

    Please note the different certification mark to the one shown above used by TransFair USA.

    1. Thank you FEd for this link. 🙂 So, now I know where I can find their products.

      In my opinion Fairtrade will be a new commerce. I hope and I believe many of us want to change shopping habits. It’s basic through blogs, websites and social networks, spread this message.

      Have a nice weekend to everyone.

      Bye, Hydrea

    2. Ash. 🙂

      Just pick up an object round your house Where was it made? I bet you find a lot of things were made in China. Probably due to the fact that it is cheaper to produce in China. This in turn might be a Fairtrade issue, but I haven’t researched that far in that regard.

      But the Brits send a lot of plastic waste to China for supposed recycling – see this.

      What I was trying to say was that things are made in China to satisfy the western market and, who knows, maybe some of the products are made from the “bad” plastics that the Brits have sent to them (I don’t know if any other country does this – probably!). We tell them to stop polluting yet we give them contracts to manufacture things for us, the materialistic westerners, and even though we live far away, it affects the environment.

    3. I see what you were saying Julie. Yin and Yang though, all those snugly fleece blankets, clothes, loft insulation, probably lots of other stuff, are made from recycled bottles.

      Recycling must surely be part of the solution.

      ash 🙂

  11. Palm oil goes into a lot of convenience and snack foods WE eat. Its production is escalating to accommodate the biofuels market. Not only is this industry causing extinction TODAY of species, it is unlocking huge carbon reservoirs and will further contribute to global warming.

    I guess I am green now (ignorant) as I thought biofuels were a way of trying to propel motorcars etc in an environmentally friendly way. I thought that biofuel was supposed to be a natural alternative to petroleum (gasolene). So what is the solution to all these things then? It would appear that everything has a dark side after all.

    However, it would alleviate the need for crude oil, which is bound to run out one day, and the western nations would no longer have to depend on obtaining the sticky stuff from the middle east.

    Okay, I am fully aware of the damage which carbon causes and why it is VERY important to have trees but I was not aware of the damage of palm oil. I reiterate, I surely am green after all.

    But what is the alternative? Is there any solution at all to the halting of global warming.

    As we sit here and philosophise over such things and at the same time beseech China to stop polluting, the Chinese are producing things to feed the western commericalist way of life. So is it the westerner that is indeed killing the planet after all?

    Money has a lot to answer for.

    1. According to certain members of the Republican party here in the USA, the fact that we had a blizzard last week completely proves that global warming is a sham, that it is a scheme by Al Gore to make millions.

      There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin.

      The Republican party is the party of George Bush and Sara Palin, it is amazing that anyone takes them seriously.

    2. Julie. 🙂

      I don’t think it is the westerner so much as the peoples who were in at the start of the industrial revolution. We have to forgive them though because they could not foresee the outcomes of their progress. I don’t think ordinary people a hundred years ago knew much about evolution, extinctions, environment, etc. By and large ordinary folk were not educated in the way they are today. It’s only really been since about the sixties (I’m taking a wild guestimate here) that people started to have access to education and science to produce enough scientists to go out and do the research to find out what we know today about man made environmental problems.

      Of course THE big question is: how do you shut the stable door once the horse has bolted? How do you ask third world countries to please learn from our mistakes?

      It’s a little bit at a time I suppose. I think there are success stories though.

      ash

  12. Thank you everyone for the information. Gets me motivated to do more investigating.

    I used to confine most of my research to animal rights, but have needed to expand and update my thoughts. I still have strong feelings about our ‘care’ for animals but everything is tied together.

    Great weekend to all,
    Jan

  13. Fairtrade vs Rainforest Alliance.

    It’s always constructive to confront different opinions, points of view, positions, so, why not take an objective look at an email that I got from PG Tips in response to a message I sent them -as suggested in your post- to ask them to go Fairtrade?

    At least they reacted and took the time to ‘justify’ themselves. That’s good, even though I think it might just be a marketing operation.

    As you point out in your postcard, PG Tips is certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Like Fairtrade, the Rainforest Alliance is an independent certification scheme. Both systems work towards the common objective of a sustainable livelihood for farmers. Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance both are members of an alliance called ISEAL which represents the highest standards of “ecological sustainability and social justice” and promotes the co-existence of schemes.

    We think both Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certification programmes are sound and valuable and that each plays a role in furthering sustainable commodity sourcing. However, it is fair to say that each programme uses a different approach and puts the emphasis on different aspects. Rainforest Alliance focuses on how farms are managed. Fairtrade is more focused on tackling poverty and how crops are traded. Both have social, environmental and economic aspects in their programmes.

    We decided that in the light of the issues that we were facing in the tea market that the Rainforest Alliance is the most appropriate partner to work with and we believe that our decision, in 2007, to move PG tips to Rainforest Alliance certification standards has had a positive impact on the tea market.

    Since 2007, many of our suppliers have worked hard to become Rainforest Alliance Certified, including more than 30.000 smallholder farms in Kenya. We have helped train the farmers to farm more sustainably, as a result of which these small farms saw the yields of their tea fields increase by 10-15%, resulting in better incomes. Rainforest Alliance certification has also brought better working conditions and increased environmental protection.

    We always intended to make sure all the tea we grow for PG tips is grown sustainably, not just part of our range. To give you an idea, the volume of certified tea we currently buy for the UK alone is about 3 times the global volume for Fairtrade certified tea.

    In 2010, PG Tips will be fully Rainforest Alliance certified. We’re really proud of that achievement, the scale of our work and the benefits this is having for farmers, their families and the environment.

    Therefore, on PG Tips, we’re committed to continuing to work with the Rainforest Alliance and I hope this has explains why we will not be switching. We have discussed this with Traidcraft, Women’s Institute, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade and made our position clear. We also believe that it isn’t fair for ISEAL certification schemes to campaign against each other while so much of the tea on the market isn’t certified at all.

    However, we’d like to stress the decision by PG Tips is not a corporate decision for PG Tips’ parent company, Unilever. Unilever is committed to Sustainable Agriculture and works with a range of partners for the certification of the sustainable supply of our commodities. For example, we sell Fairtrade certified ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s) and we’ve set up the Marine Stewardship Council (in partnership with WWF) to tackle the issue of sustainable fishing. For soy and palm oil we are members of multi-stakeholder Roundtables.

    I think that Fairtrade and RA are complementary and I agree with PG Tips when they say “It isn’t fair for ISEAL certification schemes to campaign against each other while so much of the tea on the market isn’t certified at all.”

    I think that, unlike Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance has no aim to change the trade system, if the market price falls to an unsustainable level, there is no responsibility on the developed world companies to buy at a higher level. But on environmental issues, the Rainforest Alliance Certification has tighter standards than Fairtrade. So there is merit in both systems.

    Anyway I don’t drink tea. 😉

    So, just ‘one more cup of coffee’ for me now and it will be a delicious ‘Jacques Vabre Popayan’ (Colombia). I’ve been enjoying it for years and only discovered a few days ago that it was “stamped with the very snazzy Rainforest Alliance logo”. 😉

    I still have to make a lot of progress…

    Michèle

    1. What a load of corporate nonsense… :))

      Worthless spin… Means nothing… 🙁

      There will be plenty more of that…

    2. Thank you for posting your email, Michèle. It was very interesting to read it.

    3. This is Tetley’s response:

      We are very aware of our responsibilities to the people who grow and pick our tea, and of our responsibility to help sustain the environment on tea estates. We fulfil these responsibilities through our approach to tea buying and membership of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP).

      Sourcing the quality of tea needed to maintain the standard of the Tetley blend requires first hand knowledge of where and how the tea has been produced. Our Tea Buying team therefore develop direct long-term trading relationships with producers in all the major tea-growing regions and visit the estates that our tea comes from. As many tea purchases as possible are made on a forward contract basis which provides stability for the producer by guaranteeing future volume. We pay a sustainable price for each type of tea that reflects its quality.

      Tetley has been a member of the ETP since it was founded in 1997. The ETP is a non-commercial alliance of international tea companies with a vision for a thriving global tea industry which is socially just and environmentally sustainable. Tetley have two representatives on the ETP Board, meaning that we continue to play a leading role in its development. The new ETP strategy embraces producer needs to a far greater extent than ever before. Those not aware of the work of the ETP may like to visit ethicalteapartnership.org and look at the publication ‘Enabling change across the tea sector’ which shows how the ETP is making a big contribution to sustainable development in the tea industry.

      Furthermore, the Tata Beverage Group, which Tetley belongs to, is placing sustainability at its core. In addition to ethical sourcing this will see us invest in global climate change, water management, and packaging management programmes which directly or indirectly will all benefit tea producers.

      Regarding seeking Fairtrade certification for Tetley branded teas, obviously we take into account what our Tetley consumers tell us, and evaluation of communication received over the last year indicates they are aligned with our approach to this important issue. We will continue to develop our understanding of Tetley consumers to ensure that what we do remains attuned to their needs.

      For consumers who wish to buy Fairtrade certified tea, we offer Good Earth Organic Fairtrade teabags.

      So, whilst not considering Fairtrade certification for Tetley, we do believe we are playing a significant and appropriate role in helping to create a global tea sector that is environmentally sound and socially just.

    4. And this from Twinings:

      As a business with more than 300 years’ heritage in tea, Twinings welcomes any and all initiatives that aim to improve the living and working conditions of tea estate workers around the world. We fully acknowledge the responsibility of companies such as ours to work with producers to try to improve social and environmental standards and we also recognise the good work done by the Certification Organisations.

      Concerning Certification, we are pleased to advise that from January 2010 Twinings Everyday tea will be sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, joining our Jacksons of Piccadilly brand range of Fairtrade teas.

      However, Twinings believes there are also many other ways to have a positive impact and we have a number of approaches to sustainability.

      As a premium tea brand, we aim to source from the highest quality tea estates; by this we mean estates that produce high quality teas but which also maintain high standards in everything they do, including treatment of employees and impact on the environment. We have worked with many of our suppliers for several generations. Given our emphasis on quality, it follows that the price we pay for your Twinings tea is substantially above the Fairtrade minimum price.

      Twinings is a founding member of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), which we believe gives us the ethical assurance and geographical coverage that we need for our extensive product range. The ETP is an alliance of tea packers who are working together to improve the sustainability of the tea sector. The ETP members share a vision of a thriving industry that is socially just and environmentally sustainable, and collaborate with a range of organisations to achieve this. The ETP is active in all major tea producing regions.

      The ETP manages a continuous monitoring programme that identifies tea producers’ needs and provides remedial advice and support to improve standards. These standards are based on the Ethical Trading Initiative and the International Labour Organisation conventions. (Certification scheme social standards are also typically based on International Labour Organisation conventions).

      The ETP’s environmental provisions cover environmental management, agrochemicals, biodiversity, soil conservation, water conservation, energy use and waste management.

      Since its formation, the ETP has worked with tea producers around the world to try to improve living and working standards. There are ETP Regional Managers in the key tea growing regions who work closely with the producers.

      In addition to monitoring estates to the ETP standard, the ETP also manages a series of “producer support” projects. For further information please visit ethicalteapartnership.org.

      Twinings also independently continues to support other community programmes. Our principal partner for the last six years has been Save the Children, with whom we have supported a range of projects, including several in tea growing communities in China.

      We hope you are assured, therefore, that Twinings is making serious efforts and contributions towards improving the lives of tea workers, as it has been doing for many years.

    5. And this is from Yorkshire Tea:

      Like you, we’re passionate about ethical trade. You might not know but Taylors of Harrogate is a family business, which gives us the happy freedom to think and act differently to most. We have very strong values and believe in supporting the communities that grow our tea by both trading fairly and protecting the environment.

      We respect the Fairtrade Foundation and the work they’ve done to highlight the need for ethical trade – indeed many of our coffees are Fairtrade certified. But we also believe that improving social and environmental standards for growers needs many different approaches. For Yorkshire Tea our approach is as follows:

      – We pay fair, sustainable prices for quality teas: we always pay top prices for premium teas, rather than market rate. We also pay premiums to smallholder farmers to reward their efforts. Last year, the prices we paid for Yorkshire Tea were, on average, 70% above the Fairtrade minimum price.

      – We build long term, direct relationships: we work directly with estates, giving them security for the future. Through the Ethical Tea Partnership we’re implementing direct support projects for our growers.

      – We help our suppliers improve working and environmental standards: Yorkshire Tea carries the Rainforest Alliance certified seal which, like Fairtrade, is only awarded to farmers and growers with good social and environmental standards. In the last year alone we’ve also started to offer pre-finance to growers who lack access to local sources of credit, and we’re match funding a substantial grant from the Department of International Development to improve tea quality and living standards for over 10,000 growers in Rwanda.

      We’re also committed to protecting the environment and fighting changing climate which will affect developing countries first and foremost. Over the last 20 years, thanks to our Trees for Life campaign, we’ve funded the planting of 3 million trees, building communities and improving lives in tea and coffee growing countries. And now, with an acre of rainforest destroyed every second of every day, we’ve pledged to save an area of rainforest the size of Yorkshire.

  14. Why drink tea at all?? Because you’re addicted to the caffeine it contains.

    The mass production of any product feeds the very system that is destroying life on the planet. There is no “safe and ethical” way with regards to the mass production or manufacturing of anything. It’s an illusion that the shareholders perpetuate to keep the profits rolling in. The shelves and warehouses are packed to the brim. If you shop at a supermarket, you aren’t being ethical, don’t delude yourself.

    “Green” labels don’t mean a damn thing… Nothing is changing, we’re still heading down the road to destruction at a rate of knots. There isn’t a solution to stop or reverse the damage, don’t fool yourselves. Want to help people in Africa etc.? Cancel all their debts and allow them to get on the merry-go-round of stupidity with the developed world…

    Fair trade… False economy… Humans are the problem, not the solution.

    1. Fair trade… False economy… Humans are the problem, not the solution.

      Even though that’s a quite pessimistic point of view, I have to admit that I shared it more than once, particularly when I feel angry or disappointed for something that happened.

      Trying to be objective, I don’t believe all humans are the problem.

      Of course, many of them, maybe all of us, some time, are greedy, selfish and lazy, especially if they have to learn something new that could make them doubt about their usual beliefs.

      But normal people are not the real problem, not all of them, at least. I’m sure most of them would change habits, if correctly informed and educated.

      If you think about it, common people had to change their way of life and ideals so many times in history… Aren’t they doing it again right now, because of this general crisis, unemployment and new poverty?

      In my opinion, those who have the power to guide us by economy are the problem. They’re actually the ones who never look to the future, never adapt and have no interest in changing anything.

  15. I’m so sorry I had no time to read the Blog last week, so I couldn’t follow the discussion from the beginning.

    I was very glad to read that I’m not the only one who doesn’t trust all those eco-friendly certifications that are appearing on so many products, since some time.

    It’s not a good sign, in my opinion, that the biggest multinational societies of the world are trying to put their hands on ecology, human rights or values like that.
    Sorry, but I can’t believe their good words, when I know they became rich and powerful just ignoring and violating those rights they’re now saying they defend.

    What I think is that we shouldn’t even permit them to use the word “ecology”, if we don’t want them to grab its meaning and convert it in fashion.

    Anyway, I didn’t change my habits very much since last year. I’m still buying Fairtrade products when I can and I’m still trying to boycott all those products which are/could be tested on animals or some way unethical.

    I also completely agree with Ash on buying basic products instead of “new” ones, which are just a way to torture animals and deceive us consumers.

    I don’t know if I feel more cynical than the last year, maybe yes, especially when I hear news like this and this.

    I know we were speaking about Fairtrade, but isn’t it all part of the same problem?

  16. Sorry, but it’s easier to destroy than to build…

    Goes without saying, Michèle… Goes without saying… The proof is everywhere.

    Alessandra, what you call pessimistic, I call cold, hard reality, as sad as it is, it’s the truth. No point pretending. “Normal” people are part of the problem, because we’re all slaves to the very system that is destroying life on the planet, there is no escape… Don’t get bogged down with semantics when the reality so clearly speaks for itself. Despite claims by some to the contrary, we have reached the tipping point and there is no returning from it. Don’t let the human (ego) arrogance fool you, we can’t solve these problems, it’s well beyond our capabilities, both physically and intellectually.

    To get a good idea about the wave of profit based stupidity that is engulfing (destroying) the world, please take a look at the documentary Food, Inc.. The focus is on standard US practices, but it’s pertinent to the rest of the world as these practices are now in use worldwide. Very scary stuff… It’s sickening… None of us are immune from it.

    1. Thanks for the link.

      Another to look out for is entitled ‘The Bitter Taste of Tea: A Journey into the World of Fair Trade’.

      You can watch it free of charge here.

    2. Thank you for the documentary. I’ll watch it as soon as I can.

      As I told you, I shared your point of view many times in the past and it’s not strange that I feel discouraged, when I observe what us humans have become, everyone included, as you say.

      But you have to admit that the reality you describe is a very sad one and it might be hard to accept.

      If there are no solutions, apart from the extinction of the entire human race and every other form of life on Earth, what should we do right now? Go on with our wrong habits and stop trying to change? Or change our own behaviour just to feel our conscience is clear? Or maybe it’s not important, since everything you choose will be useless?

      I think this is the part of your reasoning that I just can’t share, even though I know you might be right.

      For me, if humans won’t save themselves, it will be, partially because, for their own fault, they didn’t even try to do it, partially because they had been caught in a system made to deceive them and too hard to fight.

  17. Thank you for the link, FEd, great site!!!

    Alessandra, it is a very sad reality, it’s hard to accept that the human race could be so blind, so stupid… I don’t know what can be done when all of the mechanisms that have created the problems are still in full swing. Like nothing is wrong and it’s full steam ahead, business as usual… But we will call it “green” (or some other label), use a little less, but create a whole lot more, etc.

    Making money is the most important thing, and that means mass production and consumption will continue and increase. If everything continues the was it is, life doesn’t stand a bloody chance. I really don’t believe that the economic system that rules the world is going to call it quits any time soon, so I don’t see much hope at all.

    If there is a solution, I can’t see it. The people with the “power” don’t give a damn… Buy now, pay later… But who will pay later??? It’s our fault for being sheep… but are we going to start killing??? You wouldn’t even be able to organise a revolution these days… they have us right where they want us.

    1. You wouldn’t even be able to organise a revolution these days… they have us right where they want us.

      I agree with you on this. We are all so addicted to our present way of life, that I don’t think we would be able to renounce it anymore.

      Thank you very much Dr Phang for this interesting discussion. 🙂

  18. Speaking of Nestlé, Greenpeace has launched a campaign to stop them buying palm oil from companies that are destroying the rainforests, and further endangering the already critically endangered orang-utan, to increase their plantations and profits.

    Have a look at the well-made video, which has already been pulled from YouTube due to Nestlé’s lawyers.

Comments are closed.