What is Fair Trade?
The Fair Trade brand is now widely recognised internationally and in the UK.
Awareness of the fair trade mark has grown dramatically over the last 7 years.
In the UK in 2003, a public survey revealed that awareness of the fair trade mark was 25%.
By 2008 this had gone up to 70%. More and more people are choosing to buy fair trade products
and 67% of UK household purchased fair trade products in 2008 –up by 3% on 2007 (source Fair-trade Foundation).
What does fair trade mean to you? Who buys fair trade products and why? Many people reading this article will
have their roots or even family in developing countries. Are they more likely to buy fair trade products?
Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fair trade Foundation in 2006 was quoted as saying
“people assume that it is a middle class preoccupation, but that is slightly arrogant…
I visited a homeless project where they are selling 100%fair trade coffee because they say
…we know what it’s like for those farmers and we want to play our part in making a difference….
as we see in Co-op and Asda it is people across the spectrum who are ready to buy fair trade”
The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about fair trade and fair trade goods and to provide readers with information
that I hope will enable them to make an informed choice about whether or not to purchase Fair Trade goods.
I am originally from Uganda and have lived in the UK for over 20 years. I have worked in the UK charity sector all my working life,
but it was the 6 years I spent working as a Programme Officer for Voluntary Services Overseas in Uganda and as an Area Manager (Community fundraising)
for Save the Children South London, that heightened my interest and commitment to international development and to fair trade in particular.
I believe that one way of ensuring sustainable growth, job creation and poverty reduction in developing countries is to support small producers and
enable them to access international markets. I have recently been given the opportunity to realise my dream of setting up
my own business Twiga Gifts Ltd with Fair trade principles at the heart of its mission.
I have spoken to many individuals from the African Diaspora in the UK who like myself grimace,
when they see yet another image of an emaciated child, seemingly in the final stages of his/her life,
with flies at the corner of her mouth next to yet another mother who herself seems to be kept alive by sheer will power.
Whilst international aid provides a lifeline for many vulnerable people in developing countries, there’s a growing cohort questioning its effectiveness in delivering long term economic growth and poverty reduction. Dambisa Moyo for example argues that after 60 years and 1 trillion dollars of international aid to Africa, there has been no increase in growth or reduction in poverty. Problems quoted include corruption, problems with distribution, high overhead costs, the creation of a dependency culture and the list goes on. They argue that the focus should be on assisting developing countries to become economically independent through trade and access to international markets. It is with some of these arguments in mind that I have felt that the time is right for me to do what I enjoy doing, whilst contributing to the empowerment of small producers in Africa and Asia by bringing quality handmade products to the UK market.
Definition of Fair Trade
Fair Trade in Europe started as a grassroots movement about 40 years ago. The aim was to alleviate poverty in the ‘Global South’ – Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean – by building direct, sustainable relationships with disadvantaged producers and providing fair access to markets in the developed ‘North’. The aims are the same now, but fair trade has developed into a powerful force, symbolised by a high level of European co-operation.
There are different definitions of fair trade which broadly have similar meanings. Below is one example:
“A trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, which seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. fair trade organisations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practices of conventional international trade.
All involved in fair trade accept that it has to include: paying fair prices to producers which reflect the true cost of production, supporting producer organisations in their social and environmental projects, promoting gender equality in pay and working conditions, advising on product development to increase access to markets, committing to long term relationships to provide stability and security and campaigning to highlight the unequal system of world trade which places profit above human rights and threatens our environment”
Accessing Fair Trade products:
There are two ways access fair-trade products in the UK
- 1.Look out for the Fair Trade mark
- 2.Look out of an organisation/company that adheres to Fair trade principles
The Fair Trade Mark.
The Fair trade mark, now widely recognised is an international system of applying a certification mark to products
that comply with international fair trade standards as defined above. There are international standards for production,
processing, importing, manufacturing and labelling fair trade products set by the Fair trade Labelling Organisation International.
(FLO) The system is fairly complicated requiring organisations to demonstrate that they meet a set of criteria in order to be certified
to use the Fair trade mark on finished products. Fair trade products and their derivatives are products for which the FLO has established
a product trade standard and pricing structure. Many product however are not yet Fair trade certified.
visit for more information.
Fair Trade retailers
The British Association of Fair Trade Shops (BAFTS) is the national membership organisation for fair trade retailers in the UK.
The retailers , although independent, unite in a core purpose which is to bring about fundamental changes in the status of working producers
through fair trade retailing and campaigning.
BAFTS seeks to strengthen a network of sales channels that are dedicated to its core purpose.
It seeks to improve the quality and the quantity of such channels, so that they are better able
to contribute towards the building of greater justice and equity in the world.
The association and its members support campaigns that increase awareness and understanding of the needs of producer workers and of their rights.
BAFTS retailers will have the promotion of social justice as the foundation on which their business is built. In order to be considered for membership, a retailer must source 70% of their products from recognised fair-trade suppliers in the UK, or source 70% of their products direct from producers in the developing world.
You can recognise BAFTS retailers through the BAFTS logo, however there may be some retailers who adhere to BAFTS principals but are not BAFTS members. If you’re looking for Fair Trade products, you should be able to access additional information from the retailer and decide for yourself whether they meet your criteria.
Fair trade Foundation: An Independent non-profit organisation that licences the use of the fair trade mark on products in the UK for more information.
British Association of Fair Trade Shops: An association of independent fair trade retailers in the UK. for more information.
Twiga Gifts LTD: An association of independent fair trade retailers in the UK. for more information.
Dambisa Moyo:An international economist born in Zambia who writes on macro economy and global affairs. Author of critically acclaimed New York Times best seller Dead Aid, named in Time magazine list of 100 most influential people, holds a Doctorate from Oxford university and a Masters from Harvard.