Fears that Fairtrade principles are being diluted by big firms

Dr Iain Davies with Fairtrade products. He says says consumers should be more aware of which products are 100 per cent Fairtrade
Dr Iain Davies with Fairtrade products. He says says consumers should be more aware of which products are 100 per cent Fairtrade
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WITH BIG comp­anies like Cadbury and Tate and Lyle entering the market for Fairtrade groceries, the market is bigger than ever before.

One in five Fairtrade products worldwide is sold in the UK and the market for fairly traded products is now worth £576m a year.

However, an academic who has spent his whole career in the industry says the original principles of the movement are being diluted by the entry of big
corporate players.

Dr Iain Davies says consumers should be more aware of which products are 100 per cent Fairtrade and which only adhere to some of the principles involved.

He says that companies such as Equal Exchange Coffee, Cafe Direct and Oke bananas, as well as goods sold in Oxfam and One World shops, should be recognised for continuing to fulfil all the original promises of the movement.

He says: “Consumers are not aware of the different approaches to Fairtrade, and therefore improved communication from the 100 per cent Fairtrade organisations on why they are different would help consumers make informed decisions.”

Dr Davies says firms such as Cafédirect, Divine and Traidcraft are being edged out by the rise in the use of the Fairtrade marque in own-label products.

“This research is not about criticising corporations, but is about letting people know that buying Fairtrade-marked products from corporations is not always the same as buying from companies that are 100% committed such as Traidcraft, Divine or Cafédirect.

“There is a definite place for corporations being part of the Fairtrade system, but there should still be room for these independent Fairtrade organisations. There are very few national, branded Fairtrade organisations left in the US and it would be a very sad thing if that happened here. Fairtrade organisations in the UK have been heavily socially led and they’ve led to innovative impacts on producer organisations such as joint ownership in Fairtrade brands.”

A spokesman for the Fairtrade Foundation said: “The Fairtrade Foundation welcomes the deb­ate that the paper creates about the future of Fairtrade, and the role of different types of business in delivering the depth and scale of impact for producers that is consistent with Fairtrade’s vision of a world in which all producers are able to secure a sustainable livelihood.

“The paper usefully points to the value of the dedicated 100 per cent Fairtrade business model, highlighting some of the added value these companies
deliver in terms of commitments to producer support, producer voice and shareholding in their own governance. At the Fairtrade Foundation we are keen to continue working closely with the dedicated Fairtrade companies to ensure that their distinctive added-value business model is able to thrive into the future, and also continues to act as a catalyst for wider change, as it has done to date.

“However, as the paper also confirms, consumers can rest assured that, wherever the Fairtrade mark appears on a product, the producers’ group have received the Fairtrade price and premium which they use for social projects like the provision of healthcare and education, or business developments.”

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: “It is vital that the movement’s principles are not lost due to corporate interests.”