For two weeks each year, The Fairtrade Foundation runs a campaign to raise awareness of fairtrade; introduce the concept to people who aren’t familiar with it, and try to encourage consumers to think about where the products they buy have come from. If you aren’t aware of Fairtrade Fortnight, which this year is 27th February – 11th March, you can read more about it here.
This year, they are encouraging us all to ‘Take a Step’ for fair trade. The step you take can be switching to fair trade coffee, running a fundraising event for the Foundation, or just showing off your Fairtrade sticker to promote the cause. We’d encourage you to have a think about anything you can do to take a step for fair trade in the next few weeks!
But at this time of economic hardship for the UK as a whole, can the average consumer genuinely take a step for fair trade in any real sense? It’s great to put up a sticker, promote the movement and get people thinking, but at the end of the day there needs to be a wholesale swtich to fairly traded goods being the norm….doesn’t there?
Well, yes. Of course, that would be ideal, and our aim here at ethicTrade is to make ethically produced products the norm in the general marketplace rather than the exception. But as the old adage goes, “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” (Please note, we do not condone the consumption of elephants in any way!) We often hear that fairly traded goods are always more expensive and – whilst consumers would love to buy them – money is tight and they just can’t afford it.
Well firstly, I’m pleased to say that not everyone considers this to be so. Research conducted in 2010, just as the recession was starting to bite, found that sales of Fairtrade goods had risen by 40% to an estimated retail value of over £1 billion compared to 2009. On top of this, there are now over 500 Fairtrade towns in the UK, including our own partner Chesham 4 Fair Trade, and over 70,000 registered Fairtrade campaigners. So even in a recession, it seems clear that people are still becoming increasingly aware of where their purchases come from and the people that produce them.
Secondly, one of our aims is to break the perception that ethical products are necessarily more expensive. Take one of our men’s beanie hats. These cost you £8.99 – a standard high street price for a beanie hat – and are as ethical as it gets, made by skilled artisans in Nepal who are paid a fair price for their goods and use that income to supplement their lives as subsistence farmers. You can find hundreds more examples of great value, ethical products on our ethical shopping website.
Our other aim is to start widening consumers’ understanding about the type of products that you can buy ethically. We promote over 700 products and none of them are coffee, tea or chocolate! There really is a huge range of homeware, gifts, jewellery, clothing, stationery and crafts out there that have been ethically produced and are helping to lift people out of poverty.
So is fair trade realistic in a recession? Most definitely. Lots of people clearly think it is as demonstrated by the study mentioned above, and with just about every product you could want available ethically at a good price, there really is no excuse!
So once you’ve been to http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/ and taken a step there, why not have a look at ethicTrade.com, and see if you can take just one step more….
Ethictrade LLP is an active member of Ethical Junction, learn more