Fairtrade

A famous idiom in the English language is that mighty oaks from little acorns grow.  Each of you may think to yourself at some point – can I make a difference to the world, how can one person make a difference?

If you ever doubt that this can happen then let me yell you about Bruce Crowther.

Bruce Crowther was such a fervent and vocal Fairtrade campaigner that he managed to persuade his fellow residents in the small market town of Garstang in Lancashire where he lived with his family and practised as a vet, to declare itself the world’s first Fairtrade Town in 2000.  Bruce went from shop to shop and visited all the local businesses, asking them to make a commitment to Fairtrade. Enthusiasm gathered and the local council signed a pledge to use or sell Fairtrade products where possible, and most of the town’s traders started selling or using Fairtrade products.

Garstang, with its population of just 5,000, inspired the Fairtrade Foundation to develop the Fairtrade Towns campaign. I will tell you about the principles of FairTrade, the Fairtrade Towns campaign itself, and what you can do to help make your city into a FairTrade town.

Under Fair Trade a minimum price is set to cover the costs of production and to provide an income that ensures a decent standard of living. Unnecessary middlemen are cut out of the process, so these higher prices can be provided to the producers.

To find Fair Trade Products in Vancouver, and all across Canadafor that matter, the easiest way is to look for the TransFair mark on applicable products. Items bearing this mark are certified by TransFairCanada, a member of Fair Trade Labelling Organizations International (FLO). An independent monitoring body, FLO-Cert, examines the origins and supply chains of products that bear this mark to ensure that the producers meet the standards set out above, such as fair price and fair labour conditions.

When you see this logo, you know the product inside meets the standards of the Fair Trade concept. What is wrong with regular coffee, sugar and chocolate you might ask? The problem is that out of the price you pay at the supermarket for a product, farmers at the other end of the supply chain will see very little of it. You might be paying $14 dollars for a premium pound of coffee, but the farmers who grew the beans may only see 50 cents of that.

Fair Trade is an alternative and ethical way of doing business with the developing world. Unlike conventional trade which seeks to obtain the lowest possible prices for imported products – no matter what this means for the quality of life of farmers and producers – Fair Trade seeks to ensure that farmers are able to live a life of dignity.

The latest Fair Trade product are raisins from Afghanistan – imagine what that could mean for the farmers in that country – enough money for them not to rely on poppies for their income, poppies that end up as heroin on the streets of the West.

A Fairtrade Town is any community in which people and organisations use their everyday choices to increase sales of Fairtrade products and bring about positive change for farmers and workers in developing countries.
We can all make a difference by supporting trade that works for development each time we shop. A FairtradeTown builds on what we as individuals can do by bringing people together to send a collective message. To become a Fairtrade Town, a community needs to meet certain goals that are set and monitored at national levels.

  1. Local council passes a resolution supporting Fairtrade, and agrees to serve Fairtrade products (for example, in meetings, offices and canteens).
  2. A range of Fairtrade products are available locally (targets vary from country to country)
  3. Schools, workplaces, places of worship and community organisations support Fairtrade and use Fairtrade products whenever possible
  4. Media coverage and events raise awareness and understanding of Fairtrade across the community.
  5. A Fairtrade steering group representing different sectors is formed to co-ordinate action around the goals and develop them over the years.

Places in BC include Vancouver (6 May 2010), Nakusp, Revelstoke, Golden – Barrie, Gimli in Manitoba,.

So what can you do – well firstly you can buy Fairtrade products – but more importantly you can find out what it would take for your company to become a FairTrade company. The next step would be to write to your local councillor, MLA, or MP and ask them to begin the process of making your municipality aFairTradeTown.

And if you think “I couldn’t possibly do that – how can I start such a process off?” then remember Bruce Crowther, the vet in Garstang, who went around doing exactly I have just asked you to do and now 11 years later the movement he started is a large international success story.  Surely this is a great example of how mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

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