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Fairtrade Fortnight – Buying Luxuries with Good Intentions

You may have heard about Fairtrade and similar ethical shopping schemes. Tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar and clothing are just some of the items that you may have seen with the familiar logos belonging to Fairtrade Foundation or other organisations such as Rainforest Alliance. What does it all mean and why should you buy these products rather than those which are non-certified?

The event takes place between late February and mid-March every year and is run by the Fairtrade Foundation, a global organisation. In 2016, Fairtrade Fortnight runs from 29th Feb to 13th March.

Fairtrade Foundation

They first came to prominence at the beginning of the last decade but their foundation goes back to 1992. Through the organisation, we became aware that we were paying too little for our luxury goods. Workers in developing countries were producing coffee, tea and chocolate for a much smaller wage than their national average. Fairtrade Foundation is not the only organisation to implore us to shop ethically, but they are arguably the most famous.

The founders saw a problem in that competition for these luxuries in our supermarkets was continually driving down prices. That was good news for us, but not for farmers in the developing world. Fairtrade wanted to appeal to people’s goodwill and be willing to pay a little bit more for those products so we can help those farmers have a better standard of living. In order to obtain certification, farmers must adhere to certain standards – regular inspections are carried out to ensure compliance.

Today, the following brands use the Fairtrade Foundation logo: Co-Op own brand goods (specifically coffee, tea and chocolate), Waitrose own brand, Starbucks, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Divine Chocolate being amongst the most obvious. You will also see other imported goods such as fruit and flowers.

Fairtrade Fortnight

fairtrade fortnight _careco
The work of Fairtrade organisations has helped coffee farmers earn a fairer wage.

Fairtrade Fortnight is simply about raising awareness of the low wages that many farmers are paid by our supermarkets and their agents in supplying us with most of our everyday goods. The event takes place annually and each year focuses on a different theme or element of the work of Fairtrade Foundation.

This year, they are encouraging people to get involved with their local communities and organise Fairtrade-based breakfasts for their friends and family. In purchasing Fairtrade goods and bringing people together, it is hoped that this will encourage people to think more about what they pay for their average shopping basket, and how lower costs at the supermarket checkout might affect the producers in the developing world. There is an action guide to help people achieve their Fairtrade breakfast goals and they are encouraging people to put their events up on their website, to spread the word and encourage others to participate. Also on the site, they have a range of branded materials that you may use if you decide to create a public event. For example, Fairtrade community meals are popular in church halls and with students.

What is Rainforest Alliance?

Rainforest Alliance is a completely different scheme and does not take part in Fairtrade Fortnight. The difference between the two is that Fairtrade Foundation is solely about the human aspect of trade and farming. Your money will go towards a better standard of living for the farmers and towards improving water supplies, education and support groups for women.

Rainforest Alliance covers all of this too, but it also promotes sustainability. This means they educate people on good farming practice, promote reforestation and teach farmers in the third world how to prevent erosion and ensure the next generation can make a living from farming the same crops. The ecological element is just as important as the human element when you buy Rainforest Alliance certified goods. Like Fairtrade, certification is granted on the basis of compliance with certain standards.

Famous brand names that prefer Rainforest Alliance certification include: Kenco Coffee, PG Tips, Galaxy Chocolate, Lipton, Innocent smoothies, Taylor’s of Harrogate (coffee) and Costa coffee (who additionally have their own ethical foundation).