Fairtrade celebrates 30 years of campaigning in the UK

To celebrate the milestone, the Fairtrade Foundation has launched an urgent call for action to bring more businesses and shoppers on board

Thirty years ago the first Fairtrade-certified product – Green & Black’s Maya Gold Chocolate, made with cocoa from Belize – hit UK stores, with Cafédirect coffee, Percol coffee and Clipper tea launched the same year.

Today, the Fairtrade Mark is the most recognised and trusted ethical label in the UK, with 92% awareness and 88% trust among those who recall seeing the Mark.

Set up in 1994, the Fairtrade Foundation, a UK charity, is part of the international Fairtrade movement, the world’s largest and most recognised fair trade system.

The foundation has marked the milestone with a special report highlighting the impact of its initiatives over the years.

“Fairtrade is driven by a vision of a world where trade benefits both people and the planet,” said Fairtrade Foundation CEO Mike Gidney. “At the heart of Fairtrade’s ethos is a commitment to addressing the root causes of poverty and exploitation.

“By ensuring producers receive a fair price for their goods, Fairtrade enables them to invest in their families, communities, and futures. This investment is particularly crucial in the face of climate change, which poses additional challenges to agricultural livelihoods.”

He added: “Equally important is Fairtrade’s emphasis on equitable governance and representation. Producers are co-owners of the Fairtrade movement, ensuring their voices are heard at every level of decision-making. This sharing of power fosters a more resilient and inclusive supply chain, where dialogue and collaboration drive meaningful change.

“Looking ahead, we need to recognise the need for greater collaboration and urgency in addressing today’s complex challenges. By continuing to prioritise fair prices and equitable governance, we can build a future where trade truly works for everyone.”

Related: Fairtrade Premium reaches record high for farmer co-ops and other producers

The report explains how buying Fairtrade products ensures farmers get a Fairtrade Minimum Price as well as the Fairtrade Premium, paid into a communal fund for producers to improve the social, economic and environmental conditions of their businesses and communities.

Many of these farmers are members of co-operatives. Among them is Miguelina Santos, a farmer from the Dominican Republic whose cocoa co-operative has been working with long-term partners such as Green & Black’s to produce cocoa for 20 years.

“Previously, cocoa was negotiated and bought at the price they (the market) wanted, and prices were raised or lowered at will due to the absence of regulations, meaning there was no control,” she said in the report. “But after Fairtrade things changed. Now we receive a fair price, the Minimum Price. This was an extraordinary achievement for us.”

Henry Serrato Artuluaga, a coffee farmer from the Asprotimana co-op in Colombia, is also quoted in the report.

“With the money it has brought to us, I’ve been learning and improving my quality of life, the quality of my family’s education and the quality of my farm’s productivity,” he said.

As members of their co-ops, the farmers also get to be involved in the decision-making process and stand for its board.

“Farmers being on the Cafédirect board means we get to speak up and make our voices heard. Instead of just watching decisions have a big impact on our lives, we’re discussing what’s important,” said Silvia Herrera, a coffee farmer from co-op Unión de Ejidos y Comunidades San Fernando in Mexico which is a supplier to Cafédirect. “We’re right at the centre, not just watching from the sidelines.”

Globally, between 1994 and 2022, producers have shared an estimated £1.7bn in Fairtrade Premiums.

The report also highlights Fairtrade’s work in terms of advocacy around trade policy reform, effective regulation, and legislative action to address issues like deforestation.

It concludes with calls for action, asking businesses to increase Fairtrade sourcing commitments and collaborate on innovative approaches to sourcing that will improve sustainability, help campaigners hold businesses and governments accountable and encourage more people to buy Fairtrade.

With the UK general election approaching, the report also issues a call to action for businesses, campaigners and the next UK government to “address extreme climate challenges and promote fair trade practices”.

“As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, and look towards the next 30 years and beyond, we know there is still so much more we can do together to improve lives and the land that sustains us,” writes actor Adjoa Andoh, patron of the Fairtrade Foundation, in the report. “And as we express our gratitude for all that you have already done – all that we have achieved together – we ask that you continue to strengthen the transformational impact of Fairtrade across the world, working alongside producers and their communities to ensure a fair future for all.”