Since the first fair trade label was introduced in 1988, the movement has been working to improve the lives of producers around the world. But with economic uncertainty and climate change adding to the challenges ahead, where does Fairtrade go next?
To address these problems, Fairtrade Foundation has drawn up a five-year plan, Changing Trade, Changing Lives, which chair Michael Jary calls “an ambitious global response to a changing world”.
“We have 20 years of evidence showing how fair terms of trade can enable farmers to achieve sustainable livelihoods and realise their hopes,” he says in his foreword to the strategy.
“Nevertheless, global trade continues to offer only a precarious existence for millions of producers who face daily the challenges of poverty, price volatility, climate change and unequal balance of power. Price deflation and the huge shifts in the UK retail sector are only increasing these pressures.
“The fact that half the world’s hungry are themselves farmers is a scandal.”
To tackle these issues, he adds, the organisation’s plan for 2020 “presents the opportunity for us all to work together in new ways, to drive even more impact and tackle the urgent challenges farmers and workers face”.
By 2020, the foundation wants farmers and workers to enjoy more value from their products and earn a “sustainable, dignified livelihood”, to empower men and women and help farmers deal with the effects of climate change.
But it paints a stark picture in the strategy of the challenges to be met.
“Climate change is resulting in the loss of 12 million hectares of productive land each year. Young people are abandoning agriculture, swelling the ranks of the urban unemployed and economic migrants,” it warns.
“Women work to produce 60-80 percent of the world’s food, yet the number of women living below the poverty line has increased by 50 percent since the 1970s. About 168 million boys and girls around the world are engaged in child labour, mostly in agriculture.
“Artisanal mining, while producing the most highly priced precious metals, remains one of the most dangerous and poorly rewarded jobs in the world.”
To combat this, the foundation is focusing on eight of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: end hunger; achieve gender equality; decent work and economic growth; reduce inequality; sustainable consumption and production; urgent action on climate change; promote peace and justice; develop partnerships to help reach the goals.
And the strategy sets out four goals of its own:
1 Focus on impact
This includes empowering coffee farmers; a living wage for all Fairtrade banana producers; improved productivity and organisation for West African cocoa smallholders; living wage and gender pilots on Fairtrade flower plantations; improved workers’ rights and welfare on North East India tea plantations.
2 Make Fairtrade personal
The strategy aims to move the public to act against unfair trading practices by raising awareness. It will work with policymakers and the media amplify the voices of farmers and workers, and with its global partners to rigorously measure and evaluate its impact, building on what works and changing what doesn’t.
3 Improve and innovate
Moving beyond its core work under the Fairtrade Mark, the foundation will look at areas such as product labelling and enabling business impact to develop a “portfolio of services”. It has created a newservices and partnerships team which is expanding existing commercial relationships and creating new ones.
4 Build a strong organisation
The foundation will work with producer networks in the South to deliver more services locally, channelling power back into the hands of farmers and workers, with more investment in monitoring and education and a new fundraising strategy.
The strategy concludes: “How incredible would it be if in five years we can say that the principles of equity, inclusiveness and transparency, along with respect for human and environmental rights and a commitment to fair pay, have been embedded in the way businesses operate?”