The Co-operative — stepping out for Fairtrade and beyond

Fairtrade Fortnight 2012 promises to be the biggest yet with 96% of the UK population now aware of the Fairtrade Mark. This year, the Fairtrade Foundation wants to...

Last year, we announced details of our rejuvenated Fairtrade strategy. Having led the agenda since the inception of the Fairtrade Mark, our response to the increasing competition was to raise the bar.

As an important and integral part of our ambitious Ethical Plan, we declared that if a product could be labelled as Fairtrade, then it would be.

By the end of 2013, we are aiming for 90 per cent of that target to be achieved. We also explained how we would support this in our own co-operative way — through a unique range of projects and initiatives that benefit producers.

Our single largest step in that process is the conversion of all our bananas to Fairtrade. This move, that will coincide with this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight, puts us on track for meeting our Ethical Plan target.

During the planning process, we have been able to create a sourcing model that means all our Fairtrade bananas will be sourced from co-operatives, and that just under half of them will be sourced from smallholder farmers on an ongoing basis. With no retail price increase and our own investment supporting 20 per cent off retail prices during Fairtrade Fortnight, this commitment is not equalled anywhere else.

In terms of project support, we have been working with Panamanian banana co-operative COOBANA, in which around £260k has been invested in supporting capacity development and in social projects such as clean water and sanitation to worker communities.

One of the many interviewees in the film is COOBANA founder member, Demetrio Jimenez Gonzalez, who will be with us during Fairtrade Fortnight as part of a nationwide tour arranged by our membership team. Visit to see if Demetrio is visiting your area.

Our chocolate bar range was the very first “100 per cent conversion” to Fairtrade. It seems like only yesterday that we made the groundbreaking move and began to campaign for the major national brands to make at least one of their products Fairtrade.

In fact it was a decade ago, and we celebrate our 10th anniversary with the news that that Mars’ Maltesers will become the third of the biggest three confectionery brands to switch to Fairtrade — showing just how far Fairtrade has come. Our chocolate bars remain the only 100 per cent Fairtrade own-brand range and, following a range relaunch last year, are supporting co-operatives in Peru, Dominican Republic and Ghana through ongoing additional payments over and above the Fairtrade premium.

At Amankwatia in Ghana, children of the Kuapa Kokoo community are enjoying a school built from such support and the children of Paulo Colorao in Dominican Republic are just moving into their rebuilt premises. See for yourself the difference our support and that of Fairtrade is making in The Dominican Republic.

Of all the product categories, tea best epitomises our co-operative difference in driving benefits beyond Fairtrade. Having become the first retailer to switch all own-brand hot drinks to Fairtrade in 2008, we set to work on an ambitious co-operative development project, bringing 11,200 small holder farmers in Kenya to Fairtrade certification and into our supply chain. The very first of the smallholder tea is being packed into The Co-operative “99” tea products just in time for Fairtrade Fortnight.

The Chairman of the new Fintea Growers co-operative, Joseph Cheruiyot, will tour events with our membership team across the UK to promote the project during Fairtrade Fortnight. Visit to see if he is visiting an event near you.

Our long-standing support for wine growing communities in South Africa and Argentina received a significant boost with our Fairtrade wine relaunch late last year, which saw our market-leading range take on an eye-catching new look with some exciting new varieties added.

In another leading step, we also introduced the UK’s first Fairtrade wine carrier to help our customers carry their purchases home. Made at a new sewing room at a mill in the village of Bauria, an economically underdeveloped farming area near Kolkata, India, profits will be used to support local charitable community-based projects.

Last year, the charismatic Chino Hernandez from the Apicoop honey co-operative in Chile paid us a visit to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight, and to promote the Fairtrade blueberries that were being sold exclusively by Co-operative stores in the UK.

During Chino’s visit, we discussed how to increase the capacity of the Apicoop and went on to invest £85k of community funding towards helping Apicoop increase their output and pack their own fruit.

This has, in turn, allowed our stores to access more blueberries and increase our Fairtrade offer through the winter season to 25 per cent of all the berries we sell. This year, we are aiming for ALL our winter fruit to become Fairtrade as part of our wider Fairtrade strategic targets.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2012 is upon us, and we have a lot to shout about. Gorillas and giant bananas will be roaming our stores to launch the event and create a buzz, capturing the attention of customers and local media.

In store, our market leading “20 per cent off” promotional offer will be not be missed, with plenty of point-of-sale material, radio mentions, merchandising displays and messages around the till areas. Online activity includes collaboration with the Fairtrade Foundation in a chocolate giveaway. Customers can visit to register the steps they take for Fairtrade, and our own website has also been revamped and ramped up to support Fairtrade like never before.

Naturally, our membership colleagues will be pulling out all the stops. The producer tours, new resources, and events far and wide will provide plenty of opportunity for co-operators to take their own “steps” for Fairtrade and beyond.

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