Brits are not as fair as they think they are

Would you jump the queue if your friend invited you in?

Fairness is often touted as one of the great British values. But new research released today by The Fairtrade Foundation challenges this, revealing that Brits don’t always play as fair as they’d like to think.

In a survey of over 2,000 Brits, a resounding 99 per cent of respondents said they thought they were fair most of the time. But when questioned further, over a third (37%) claimed they had been treated unfairly in the last month, with as many as one in seven (15%) admitting they had also acted unfairly towards someone during the same period.


The results are released today to mark the launch of The Fairtrade Foundation’s new campaign: The Great British Fairness Debate. The campaign aims to show consumers that by actively supporting fairness and choosing Fairtrade products more regularly, they can make a real difference to the lives of farmers and producers around the world.


Topping the fairness league are Northern Ireland and Scotland, who have been revealed as the most fair. Northern Ireland has the lowest number of people saying they have acted unfairly (11%), and Scotland has the lowest number of people saying they’ve been treated unfairly by others (30%).


Other Key findings:

  • Although queue jumping is listed as one of the nation’s top everyday gripes, with 73 per cent of respondents citing it as unfair, Fairtrade’s research shows Britain far from fits the stereotype withover half (57%) confessing to either deliberately jumping a queue or witnessing someone else do it
  • Despite nearly three quarters (73%) of those surveyed saying that not giving up a seat for a pregnant lady or elderly person is unfair, a surprising 54 per cent have either done this or seen someone else do this
  • A quarter of those surveyed (24%) admitted to not leaving a tip at a restaurant, even when the service was excellent
  • In the workplace, shockingly nearly 80 per cent think it’s fair to leave on time while a colleague stays late to get the job done
  • Londoners say they act the most unfairly, with nearly one in five (19%) admitting to treating someone unfairly in the last month. This is backed up by the number of Londoners (49%) who say they were treated unfairly by someone over the same period – the highest percentage of all the UK regions


Fairness and the generation gap

  • The younger generation is more likely to act unfairly, with one in three (31%) 16-34 year olds surveyed admitting to this behaviour in the last month, compared to only one in 10 aged 55+.
  • 66 per cent of Brits aged 16-24 say they have been treated unfairly by someone in the last month, more than double those aged 55+ (27%)
  • Three times as many 16-24 year-olds said they are likely to avoid giving up a seat on public transport and jump a queue than those aged 55+ (19% vs 6% and 22% vs 7% respectively)

Fairness and gender

  • Fair-mindedness isn’t gender specific, with 99 per cent of both males and females claiming they think they’re fair most of the time
  • However more women have been treated unfairly in the last month: 40 per cent versus 34 per cent of men


Fairness and current issues

  • 65 per cent of people said they believed it would be fair to continue living in a house that was too big for them, even if there were families in the same area unable to find a home large enough to accommodate them
  • Nearly a quarter of those surveyed (23%) said they thought it would be fair to temporarily move house to the catchment area of their preferred school, and then move back again when their child’s place was secured


Communication and body language expert Judi James commented: “Fairness is very much a human instinct that exists within a community context. It underpins a broad range of behaviours and is rooted in our emotional DNA. Britain’s sense of fair play is an important part of our national identity, but the results of Fairtrade’s study show there is a big difference between thinking fair and acting fair.


“The stresses and strains of modern life can affect even our smallest actions, which may explain why this disparity is more acute depending on your age and where you live. The fear of ‘making a scene’ may also deter us from translating a thought into an action, but by focusing on positive outcomes, we can help make a positive difference.”


“Us Brits should be proud of the fact that we’re considered to be one of the fairest nations in the world,” said Cheryl McGechie, Director of Public Engagement at The Fairtrade Foundation. “Fairtrade’s research, however, demonstrates that small but important acts of fairness are often forgotten in our day-to-day lives.


“Although many consumers sometimes shop ethically, they could be buying Fairtrade more regularly than they do. By launching The Great British Fairness Debate, we’re seeking to encourage people to think about fairness a bit more, and to give people a nudge to think about fairness to growers. We could be as fair in our shopping as we all generally like to think we are!” 


The Fairtrade Foundation’s Great British Fairness Debate is a two-week campaign from 29th September to 12th October. To find out more, and to test how fair you really are, take the Fairtrade quiz at and follow #befair.





Survey carried out by The Fairtrade Foundation with 2,046 adults in August and September 2014.


For further press information, please contact:


Frankie Allen, 0203 301 2327,

Natalie Hall, 0203 301 2197,


Notes to Editors:

About The Fairtrade Foundation:


The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products which meet international Fairtrade standards. This independent consumer label appears on products to show that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal from trade. Today, more than 1.3 million people – farmers and workers – across more than 70 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.


Over 4,500 products have been licensed to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark including coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, grapes, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, apples, pears, plums, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, satsumas, clementines, mandarins, lychees, coconuts, dried fruit, juices, smoothies, biscuits, cakes & snacks, honey, jams & preserves, chutney & sauces, rice, quinoa, herbs &  spices, seeds, nuts & nut oil, wines, beers, rum, confectionary, muesli, cereal bars, yoghurt, ice-cream, flowers, sports balls, sugar body scrub and cotton products including clothing, homeware, cloth toys, cotton wool, olive oil, gold, silver and platinum.

77% of people in the UK say they recognise the FAIRTRADE Mark (source: TNS 2013).  It is the world’s most recognized ethical label, according to Globescan research conducted for the Fairtrade Foundation in 2011.


Estimated retail sales of Fairtrade products in 2013 reached £1.78 billion, a 14% increase on sales of £1.53 billion in 2012.