This week, I attended a reception in Parliament to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight, hearing the ways that about women cocoa farmers in West Africa and the ways that Fairtrade benefits them.
Fairtrade is a movement for change that works directly with businesses, consumers and campaigners to secure a better deal for farmers and workers. It is about doing trade differently, empowering farmers and workers and challenging unfair trading practices. There are around 2 million child slaves across Ghana and the Ivory Coast who are forced to work on the cocoa plantations, while many farmers there earn less than $2 per day. This is appalling, especially given that in 2001 the world’s major chocolate manufacturers signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol which stated that child labour and trafficking would be prohibited in the cocoa industry after 2008. Across these two countries, there are 82 Fairtrade-certified organisations which pay over 130,000 workers a living wage, ensuring there is no slavery in the supply chains of their products and investing in communities to prevent children being forced into slavery by poverty. With its vision of empowerment and sustainability, Fairtrade is improving the lives of over 1.6 million farmers and workers worldwide.
The Fairtrade mark is well known; in this country, 9 out of 10 people recognise it and 26% of people frequently choose Fairtrade products. The mark is a trusted sign that the companies, farmers and workers have met certain standards, ensuring environmental, social and economic benefits for the producers and their communities. A firm supporter of co-ops and mutuals, I have long believed that companies should acknowledge their environmental and social – not just their economic – impact, ensuring they give back to all involved in producing a product. Fairtrade is a guarantee of fairness and accountability.
From tea and coffee to chocolate and bananas, our supermarkets offer a wide range of Fairtrade products – so why not try a new one next time you’re shopping? Choosing Fairtrade is a way we can all contribute to a fairer world.