Working with members to make Fairtrade flourish

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Members have been joining in to ensure that Fairtrade remains in the minds and baskets of UK shoppers in the coming years, as we celebrate 25 years of the Fairtrade Mark this year.

Members have been the driving force behind Co-op’s pioneering commitment to Fairtrade, so we were keen to work with them in this anniversary year as we reflect on the progress we’ve made to date and start developing ideas to champion Fairtrade together in the future. A motion carried at this year’s AGM also calls on us to work with Fairtrade groups and members to further strengthen support for Fairtrade Producers.

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By guaranteeing a sustainable and minimum price for goods, producers are protected from market fluctuations, can improve their position and have more control over their lives.

Almost all of the members who responded to our Join In opportunity said they had supported Fairtrade as consumers, and many also reported how they had been advocates – 43% talking to friends and family about Fairtrade, 13% asking local cafes and stores to stock Fairtrade products and 12% saying that they have spoken to schools and groups about it.

“When there are two options, and one is clearly Fairtrade I’ll always grab that. I think so much mistreatment of workers is hidden from us as consumers, every step toward transparency is better.” Holli Dawn Hamilton, Co-op Member from Edinburgh.

“I first came across the importance of buying Fairtrade products 20 years ago when it was put to me that I couldn’t sit on the fence – I either supported the commitment of people being paid fairly for their products and work all over the world, or I didn’t. Instinctively I knew this was really important. Over the years I have planned Fairtrade weeks in the schools I’ve worked in, promoted Fairtrade products in church life but amongst friends too. With the children at school we put pressure on our local supermarket to stock Fairtrade bananas only.”  Gail Fullbrook, Co-op Member from Frodsham.

The majority of members said that it was extremely important that Co-op continued to take a pioneering approach to Fairtrade over the next 25 years. They urged us to look at ensuring we maintain a strong range of Fairtrade products and have strong promotion behind them, that we further support Fairtrade producers by sponsoring projects in their communities and improve the information we make available about the impact of Fairtrade on producers.

And they also gave us some great feedback on ideas we’ve been considering to make it easier for members to support Fairtrade in the future. Members want us to look afresh at the information we produce to help members to deliver Fairtrade campaigns and presentations, identify some campaigning opportunities to mobilise members around Fairtrade issues and look at how they could financially contribute to projects in producer communities.

The wealth of ideas and inspiration from members has provided a strong foundation on which we can begin to build our plans for Fairtrade. Awareness of Fairtrade is high, but I think we’ve got some work to do to improve overall understanding of what Fairtrade is and of the benefits it delivers. And we now have a member mandate to explore some very exciting initiatives, which we’ll be doing with the support of, and in collaboration with, The Fairtrade Foundation.

If you’re a member who is interested in Fairtrade, we’ll be continuing conversations about our plans at Join In live events that are taking place throughout the UK in the autumn, so please keep an eye out for these. In the meantime, if you’re a member who would like to join in with something else, head to your member account and check out the opportunities that are available to shape your Co-op right now.

Sarah Wakefield,
Sustainable Sourcing and Fairtrade Manager