Co-op and Waitrose help boost revenues as Fairtrade Fortnight begins with focus on living wage for banana farmers
Retail sales of Fairtrade products grew 7% in 2017 as consumers shrugged off the controversy that erupted last summer when Sainsbury's said it was planning to launch its own Fairly Traded scheme for tea. (See How Sainsbury’s lost its taste for Fairtrade) Sales rose 2.5% in volume last year, helped by Co-op and Waitrose increasing their Fairtrade ranges.
The independent research by Kantar Worldpanel was published at the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight. It backs up research, carried out by TNS for the Fairtrade Foundation, showing public support for Fairtrade at “an all-time high”, the foundation said. The survey data shows that 93% of UK adults are aware of Fairtrade, while 83% of people trust the Fairtrade mark, which guarantees a minimum price to farmers and additional payments for use on social projects such as schools or clean water provision.
Fairtrade tea farmer in Kenya. (Credit: Ethical Tea Partnership)
“Last year in the UK more people than ever before got behind Fairtrade and, together with many well-known businesses, indicated they want more fair trade and less exploitation in their goods,” said Mike Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation.
The foundation marked the start of Fairtrade Fortnight with a stunt at the Millennium footbridge, which spans the river in the heart of the City of London, erecting a giant double doorway opening onto a scene from a banana farm. Celebrities, including chef Tess Ward, joined Ugandan banana farmer Ketra Kyosiimire to give out Fairtrade bananas to passers-by hurrying to work amid snow flurries.
The past 15 years have seen a 40% fall in the typical UK retail price of loose bananas while costs of production have doubled
The Fairtrade Foundation said it wanted to call attention to the plight of tens of thousands of banana farmers in Latin America, the Caribbean, south-east Asia and West Africa.
“The past 15 years have seen a 40% fall in the typical UK retail price of loose bananas while costs of production have doubled in some regions,” the foundation said. “Together, these factors have a human cost, meaning workers on non-Fairtrade plantations often have to contend with basic housing, poor working conditions and a lack of job security and continue to be undermined by late cancellations and delayed payments from unscrupulous buyers.”
It called on Commonwealth leaders, who will be meeting in London in April, to commit to a five-point plan to “put fairness at the heart of their trade plans” by:
• Committing to living incomes
• Supporting women’s economic empowerment
• Legislating to end modern slavery
• Developing trade policies guided by the Sustainable Development Goals
• Investing in producers trying to achieve higher ethical standards
Protests over Sainsbury's move last year to set up its own Fairly Traded tea label. (Credit: Cafod)
The Fairtrade Foundation said that it saw continuing support from business during 2017, including a commitment by the Co-op to switch all the cocoa it uses to Fairtrade and Waitrose’s pledge to making 100% of its own-label tea Fairtrade.
Last summer’s move by Sainsbury, the UK’s biggest Fairtrade retailer, to set up its own Fairly Traded brand for tea earned widespread condemnation from NGOs, consumers and politicians, and led to questions being raised in Parliament. In an interview with Ethical Corporation last year, David Nieberg, head of media relations at Sainsbury’s, explained the supermarket’s move. “Fairtrade is 25 years old. The world has moved on but Fairtrade is not moving with the times. It is not bringing as much benefit to farmers as it could. After 25 years of Fairtrade, still 10% of children are malnourished.”
Fairtrade is well placed to play an influential role as a partner to businesses looking to tackle human rights abuses and modern slavery
Sainsbury’s is not alone. Confectionery giant Mondelez decided to pull the Fairtrade mark off its brands in favour of its Cocoa Life scheme in 2016, though it has retained the partnership with the Fairtrade Foundation. While some commentators said companies were dropping Fairtrade to cut costs, big brands, including Mars and Mondelez, denied cost was a factor in interviews with Ethical Corporation (See Has Fairtrade passed its sell-by date?)
They expressed fears about the resilience of their supply chains, and said this has changed the nature of what they need from certification bodies such as Fairtrade.
Fairtrade said this week that it is exploring new ways of working with business and has undertaken a supply chain mapping and transparency pilot, funded by the Department for International Development. “Through this work Fairtrade is well placed to play an influential role as a partner to businesses looking to tackle human rights abuses and modern slavery risks in their supply chains.”