Pop this in your basket: Fairtrade not fairly traded
Some of you may have seen the recent furore caused by Sainsbury’s decision to drop Fairtrade certification for its own brand Red Label tea and replace it with an in house Fairly Traded label.
Fairtrade is a young movement that only began in 1988 when the Dutch development agency Solidaridad set up the Max Havelaar label, which later morphed in to the Fairtrade label we know today. In less than 30 years it has come a long way. In fact, globally Fairtrade products now account for annual sales of 7.3 billion Euros.
During this rapid growth supermarkets have played an important role by making many Fairtrade staple items like coffee, tea and chocolate widely available to their customers. Under Justin King’s stewardship Sainsbury’s was in the vanguard of this change. So it’s a shame that Sainsbury’s is now chipping away at its own credibility by opting to replace Fairtrade with ‘fairly traded’ red label tea.
The point about Fairtrade is that it is independent and that the farmers – usually organised in co-operatives – who benefit from it have autonomy. The Fairtade movement decides the minimum price and the social premium and the farmers decide how they spend the extra money they get. Once you take this away and give control back to the supermarkets the ethics and the power of the farmers soon get diluted.To be fair Sainsbury’s is not the only one at it, Tesco’s is quietly testing the water for its own labelling too, and, of course, you can still find plenty of Fairtrade products in Sainsbury’s. But what happens if they get away with this?
I doubt in the end it will dent the Fairtrade movement, which is simply too powerful and too vital to go anywhere other than forwards. The Co-op and Waitrose are already renewing their Fairtrade vows and, in all likelihood, it is Sainsbury’s who will lose out as its position in the market becomes ill defined and its middle class audience vote with their wallets.
But in the meantime if you want to save Sainsbury’s from itself and make sure that existing Fairtrade farmers get their fair share and keep their autonomy why not join over 93,000 people and sign the petition
Nick - Little Green Radicals Founder