I first encountered the FAIRTRADE Mark at my church, Lichfield Cathedral, as a young child. As a Christian, I have always seen Fairtrade and faith as interlinked.
Fairtrade is a practical solution to poverty and inequality. It gives people the chance to improve their own lives, and make their way out of poverty on their own terms, using their own skills.
Each Mark on a product denotes small but significant change in the world.
My favourite Fairtrade treat is a jar of Sweet Justice Honey, produced by members of the Apicoop co-operative in Chile, which guarantees those beekeepers a fairer deal and a continuing, sustainable livelihood.
Apicoop is a fantastic example of Fairtrade working at its best.
Paving the way for ethical trade
Fairtrade has come a long way in the last 20 years – the movement has grown, gaining widespread and mainstream support, and the number of Fairtrade products has increased.
More communities have started benefiting from the Fairtrade Premium and new countries have been added to the list of those producing products.
More recently, we have even seen the Mark on major brands including Cadbury, Mars and Nestlé, prompting some to question how Fairtrade can maintain its integrity while entering into mainstream consumer markets.
I believe it can, but will need to be increasingly aware of its public image as well as the actual use of the Mark.
One of the challenges for Fairtrade supporters, even after 20 years, is the constant need to show businesses there is a demand for Fairtrade products.
Individuals exercising their purchasing power – choosing where to shop and eat – has proven effective.
Equally important is conversation – each supporter speaking out to the owners of businesses to show that consumers still want to see the Mark on shelves and Fairtrade food on menus.
In the next 20 years, Fairtrade projects need to grow to encompass more producers and communities, where the Fairtrade Premium can transform lives.
I hope that all qualifying products imported into the UK will have to abide by the requirements laid down by the Foundation. Fairtrade Standards also need to protect more people. This will need political activism and involvement from supporters.
The anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to appraise the incredible work that has been done over the last 20 years.
There are clearly many challenges ahead. However, when I consider how much has been achieved, I know that Fairtrade supporters will take the Foundation into new and exciting places in the years to come.