As Fairtrade goes mainstream, dedicated fair trade organisations still have an important role to play. That was the message from Paul Chandler, chief executive of Traidcraft, which has been marketing fairly traded goods in the UK for over 30 years.
‘We used to market ourselves as an alternative trade operation, but as we began to grow we began to realise the potential impact we could achieve. As a nation we’re on track to achieve £1.5 billion in Fairtrade sales this year. It’s been massive, massive growth.’
Mr Chandler said it was far from job done. ‘We have important role in continuing to maintain the activism of the grassroots movement behind fair trade,’ he said. ‘In schools, towns, cities and churches we’ve got 6,000 activists selling and spreading the word. The typical fair trade activist wants to challenge unjust systems.’
Traidcraft’s other role, he said, was to develop Fairtrade initiatives in country. ‘It’s our job to keep going back and helping new people along,’ he said.
Its own brand chocolate, More than just chocolate, used to be made with beans from Kuapa Kokoo, the producers’ co-operative behind Divine Chocolate. As Kuapa Kokoo has grown, Traidcraft has moved on to work with new, smaller producers.
Its recent Fairtrade innovations include manufacturing organic instant coffee in country, barbeque charcoal from Namibia, available through The Co-operative, and fairly traded rubber products, including rubber gloves available in Asda and Tesco.
It is currently developing bamboo and willow coffins from Bangladesh, which will be launched by The Co-operative Funeral Care, and a palm oil supply chain in west Africa, aimed at reducing the impact of rainforest degeneration. Palm oil is used in everything from margarine and biscuits to soap and candles.
In the case of high value added products like cotton, he said, ethical factory audits are needed. ‘Fair trade factories is something we would love to pioneer, although that’s a long way off,’ he said. ‘There’s big agenda to work on.’