Fairtrade responds to a SciDev.net article

Fairtrade sugar farmer

Evidence shows that Fairtrade is making a difference

Fairtrade makes an important contribution to environmental sustainability and to improving workers’ rights. So while we agree that Fairtrade alone cannot curtail global emissions or end labour exploitation, and that businesses and governments must also play their part if such goals are to be achieved, to suggest that Fairtrade does not work because it cannot single-handedly solve such issues, is misguided.

Fairtrade’s goal is to make trade fair. It enables 1.5m small-scale farmers and workers in developing countries to get a fairer deal and build a better, more sustainable future for themselves, their families and their communities. A growing body of independent research shows that Fairtrade leads to increased incomes and better living standards, though fairer prices and a premium that producers can invest in their businesses and communities, for example to build maternity hospitals, provide access to clean water, or enable children to go to school.

A marketing psychology study may say that the thought processes involved in ethical purchasing are too rare for it to become mainstream, but the growth in Fairtrade products and sales over the last 20 years speaks for itself. One in three bananas sold in the UK is Fairtrade. All the major UK supermarkets – including the discounters - stock own-label Fairtrade products such as tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate. Some of the world's biggest brands are Fairtrade, including Cadbury Dairy Milk, Nestlé Kit-Kat and Starbucks espresso-based drinks.

Last year, after 20 years of double-digit growth, estimated UK retail sales of Fairtrade products dipped by 3.7% to £1.67 billion. As part of the mainstream, it was perhaps no surprise that Fairtrade sales were affected by price deflation in the grocery sector. But there has been no “loosening” of Fairtrade Standards, which remain as robust as they have always been. We are, however, committed to increasing the volumes farmers can sell on Fairtrade terms, and one of the ways we are achieving this is by offering businesses an additional way of working with Fairtrade, through Fairtrade Sourcing Programs. These enable businesses to commit to sourcing a certain amount of cocoa, sugar or cotton on Fairtrade terms.

As well as certifying products with the FAIRTRADE Mark, so that consumers can make ethical purchasing choices, Fairtrade collaborates with businesses, NGOs, donors and others on a wide range of programmes and initiatives that will enable farmers and workers to become more sustainable, from establishing Living Wage benchmarks to climate change adaptation, and supporting the participation of women. Fairtrade is making a difference, but there is much more to do to make all trade fair. To achieve this, we need to encourage more consumers to purchase Fairtrade products, and more businesses to source on Fairtrade terms – not suggest that Fairtrade cannot work because it does not solve goals that it does not claim.