WHY WE'RE FAIRTRADE
The Co-operative was the first UK supermarket to sell Fairtrade bananas, sugar and chocolate bars, and we’re strengthening our commitment to farmers and workers in developing countries through the scheme. By Karen Pasquali Jones
Published 7 Jul 2017
Bananas, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, sugar, wine and tea – no they’re not the ingredients for a delicious dish (though they easily could be) but some of the Fairtrade fruit, food and drinks we proudly sell in Midcounties Co-operative stores.
From juicy Argentinian Malbec to a blended tea from Kenya or a climate-change-resilient sugar crop grown in Belize, we’re not only sourcing the very best ingredients, but they all display the globally recognized Fairtrade logo that is an independent guarantee that producers the world over are getting a better deal. As a business that was conceived 150 years ago to help British skilled workers who were being forced into poverty during the industrial revolution, it was only natural that The Co-op should become Fairtrade pioneers. After all, the scheme has always addressed the issues of the world’s vulnerable farmers and exploited communities.
The Fairtrade label quickly became the ‘gold standard’ mark for ethical trading, synonymous with trust and making a real difference. In the 23 years since selling the UK’s first coffee, tea and chocolate labelled as Fairtrade, the Fairtrade Foundation has made a huge difference to the lives of more than a million farmers in impoverished countries around the world. Paying producers with the Fairtrade label gives them a minimum, guaranteed price for their goods to cover the cost of sustainable production. They are also given a premium payment to invest in social or economic development projects of their choice, which they control. This might include improving access to education and training, loans to finance home ownership or business start-ups, as well as benefits such as pensions and sick pay.
The Fairtrade Foundation has recently been in the news following some supermarkets withdrawing from the scheme. They have introduced their own ‘Fairly Traded’ labels. But these have been criticised by the Fairtrade Foundation and charities, which state this will undermine a scheme which has operated successfully for more than two decades.The controversy has led to the Fairtrade All Party Parliamentary Group stating in a parliamentary motion that they would like supermarkets to ‘remain with, and strengthen their commitment to, Fairtrade certification’.
It has also resulted in a public petition calling on the supermarkets to keep the Fairtrade mark, which has currently attracted some 100,000 signatures. Midcounties is proud to support the Fairtrade Foundation, and also supports other ethical certification schemes such as the one run by Rainforest Alliance (RA). RA awards its seal – featuring a green frog – to businesses, farms and forests that meet its rigorous environmental and social standards. Not as well-known as the Fairtrade Foundation, the New York-based organisation was formed 30 years ago to stop the uncontrolled destruction of rainforests by giving farms an economic incentive to protect them instead. It now works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods.
The alliance doesn’t offer a guaranteed or a minimum price to producers, like the Fairtrade Foundation does, although farmers can achieve premium prices depending on market demand. As we gear up for Christmas – the busiest time of year for food and drinks sales – and Fairtrade Fortnight, which starts on 26 February 2018, we will continue to promote Fairtrade lines.
Food fraud – the clever marketing tactics we fall for
In the UK, there is more than £11 billion of food fraud – which is defined as a dishonest act or omission relating to the production or supply of food. ‘The most misused words on food products are “farm”, “fresh” and “local”,’ says Matthew Rymer. ‘People see these words and they think they’re getting quality. They have no idea of the extent to which they are being conned.
‘Others include “locally sourced”, “locally farmed” and “locally prepared”, when there’s nothing local about them at all.
‘When consumers see the word “fresh” on their egg carton, they think they’re from free-range chickens, when they’re from battery hens. They buy a chicken because it has the word “farm” in its name and they think it’s had a better life and it’s healthier because of that, but it can be from the same chicken farm in East Anglia as budget chickens. They get away with it because it’s the final point of production that gives an item its name.’