Ambassadors Meet Kenyan Producers

Two of our Ambassadors on holiday in Kenya have managed to visit three of Shared Interest’s producer groups during their stay, including two very new customers Bega Kwa Bega and Mace Foods, and a long established customer Trinity Jewellery. You can read about their visits here and they have also taken lots of photos to share with us upon their return.

If you would like to meet some of Shared Interest producers the Shared Interest Foundation will soon be launching producer tours to both Kenya and Costa Rica, in conjunction with Traidcraft and SaddleSkedaddle. If you would be interested in joining one of these tours please email Andrea. To be in with a chance of winning a place on one of these tours why not enter the Foundation’s £1000 challenge?

Please see the Foundation Update for more details.

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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Ambassador Profile

As a new feature to the Ambassador newsletter we are going to start profiling a different Ambassador every month. If you would like to be profiled please send Sarah an email to let her know.

This month we start with Joan Stableford based in the North West.

How did you first hear about Shared Interest?

I support Practical Action, a charity that provides low technological innovations such as efficient wood burning stoves; I purchased a gift and in their new brochure was a shared interest leaflet.

When did you join as an Ambassador?

In 2008, soon after joining as a member.

What motivated you to become an Ambassador?

I feel that fair trade needs to be expanded and that needs fair finance.

What does it mean to you to be an Ambassador?

I hope to make a positive contribution to enabling others to trade their way out of poverty and improve the lives of their communities.

What do you enjoy most about being an Ambassador?

I enjoy meeting people, engaging in discussions on fair trade and finance.

What Ambassador activities have you undertaken in the last three months?

Organised for SI leaflets to be included in delegates’ bags attending an investment seminar.
Written to David Borrow, MP – he is Chair of Debt, Aid and Trade.
A talk to a church group
A stall at Fairtrade event in Preston supported by Susan a fellow ambassador.
Wrote follow up letter to press following fair trade event
Sent off emails to several church groups
Sent emails to BBC Working Lunch and Today programmes.
Gave out leaflets at local open air Churches Together event

Which activities have you found to be most successful overall?

Not sure as all quite different but will hopefully increase publicity as SI unknown to a number of fair trade stall holders at the recent events I have attended.

What do you find most challenging about being an Ambassador?

Having the appropriate tools for my email campaign. I identified this and raised it as an issue at Ambassador training. Since then I have been given two introductory letters to use.

Do you have any suggestions on how the scheme could be improved?

We should have more “Freebies” or low cost items available to increase publicity or to engage with public who seem to be very willing to buy fair trade items but need time to think about investing their money.

Better publicity material with bullet points rather than continuous text.
Picture cards one side and brief information on reverse like those Practical Action send out.

Large scale world map as in QR70 centre fold – many ethnic people looked to see if their country of origin benefited from SI.

A3 Poster size for talks that do not have power point facilities

Have school material available on web.

Finally do you have any words of wisdom for other Ambassadors?

Do not be shy – give out leaflets, send emails and enjoy spreading the word about Shared Interest.

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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August Activities in the South East. By Sally Reith

Following a busy July that included a stall at The Retirement Show in Olympia, meetings with local fairtrade and ethical groups in Milton Keynes, Luton and London, a stall at The Fair Trade Fair by the Cutty Sark and running the schools pack activities with a group of year 6 pupils at a school in Camden, I am getting set with activities and events for August.

Between fitting in some holiday I have a number of events lined up and many activities in which we would love to get you involved.

On the 19th and 21st August I will be giving presentations at a nearby food co-operative, Daily Bread in Northampton.  Having met the ‘leader’ of the co-operative through the local steering group I have arranged to speak to both staff and customers at their shop.  I will be sending them one of our new posters ahead of time filling in the space available to give details of events/presentations for Shared Interest – for details of these posters contact Sarah.

In early September (Thursday 3rd) we will be presenting at another 21st Century Network event in London on the topic ‘Social Enterprise – The 21st Century Engine for Social Change’.  If you are in the area, please come along to hear Paul Sharpe, our Supporter Relations Manager, speaking about Shared Interest or tell your friends relatives in London to pop along to find out more about our work.  For more details please contact Sally
On the 9th of September there is a nationwide movement to take action for a more sustainable world.  Shared Interest is an action worth taking, under the action point of economics, among the eight other actions!  You can help raise awareness of Shared Interest to this group by following the link to 999 it’s time and comment on the action to invest with Shared Interest.

Ambassador Meet Up – I am arranging a Meet Up for Ambassadors to get together and discuss their activities with each other and suggest ideas for further Ambassador action.  From the responses I have had so far this looks like September will be the best month to arrange this.  If you would like to get involved with this Meet Up please get in touch.

Happy Summer!

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Ambassador Question Time

This month we address a question highlighted by an Ambassador attending an International Co-Operatives event in Milton Keynes:

What is the minimum amount of money you need to open a Shared Interest Account?

The minimum amount of money that you can open a Shared Interest Share Account with is £100. However accounts can also be opened by a group of individuals, for example four people could pool together £25each and open an account with the total £100.

At the other end of the scale the maximum investment we can take is £20,000. This is due to the regulations of being an Industrial and Providence Society.

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Why Invest in Fair Trade?

Lisa Zaslow is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Lisa is a passionate fair trade and microfinance activist currently living in North Carolina, USA. She is the founder of Blue People Fair Trade Ltd., an online store that specializes in fair trade and environmentally friendly accessories from all over the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.

Fair trade is a model for sustainable economy in rural communities in the developing world with over 7 million people in 62 countries across the world depending on fair trade for their livelihood, either directly through their work or indirectly through the community projects that the Fairtrade Premium provides. Small grassroots businesses, such as banana farmers and handicraft co-operatives, make up the fair trade movement. Promoting livelihoods and empowering these groups is where sustainable development and poverty alleviation begin.

As successful as the fair trade movement has been at helping to eradicate poverty in the developing world, the current worldwide credit crunch is threatening the viability of the movement going forward.

All businesses rely on credit to grow, or even survive, whether it is a line of credit to overcome temporary shortfalls in cash flow or long term loans to purchase equipment. Most businesses in the developing world don’t have access to traditional finance. Considered too risky and small for mainstream banks and too large for microfinance, these grassroots businesses cannot access the capital they need to grow and sustain their businesses. In our global economy, credit is often exorbitantly expensive for self-help groups. And it sometimes comes with “strings” that can lead to outside control of developing economies.

Small farmers who belong to the fair trade movement, which advocates fair prices and sustainable agriculture, say they get some protection from wild market fluctuations that are happening in the economic crisis. But many fair trade organizations are reporting that producers are having difficulties raising finance and loans locally in the developing world. As banks run out of money (or refuse to lend money), fair trade groups are starting to struggle to meet demand for working capital.

The Fair Trade movement needs individuals, companies and organizations to invest in fair trade so that the movement can grow to include many more small farmers and artisans. People are willing to pay a premium to help the planet and to help people in the developing world, but without access to credit/finance, small farmers and artisans, and the rural communities that they live in, will not be able to capitalize on their specialty products. Invest now and don’t forget to buy fair trade!

Click here to find out how you can invest in fair trade.

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Holiday Prize offered for £1,000 Challenge

Would you like to visit one of the most beautiful countries in the world and see first hand the impact that fair trade has on craft producers and farmers?

By entering our £1,000 Challenge you will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win a Meet the People fair trade holiday to Peru, Kenya or Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Meet the People Tours are offered to Shared Interest and Traidcraft supporters as an opportunity to meet fair trade producers while enjoying a unique and authentic insight into a country’s people and culture.

As many of you already know Shared Interest Foundation does some amazing work to help people in the developing world work their way out of poverty. Whether it’s giving a small grant to pay for an organisation to attend a trade fair or running an intensive three-year training course, our work changes people’s lives.

We would love to help more craft makers and farmers achieve their true potential, however this can only be achieved with your help and this is where the £1,000 challenge comes in.

We are looking for 100 people to commit to raising £1,000 within one year. Now this may seem daunting at first, however with our help – in fundraising ideas, sponsor forms and marketing advice – and support from your family and friends it is achievable. You can help thousands of individuals to improve their livelihoods and you could win a holiday of a lifetime.

I have signed up for this challenge myself (although I will not be entered into the holiday prize draw for obvious reasons!) and will be recording my progress monthly to share ideas, challenges and hopefully successes stories. I’m being sponsored to swim the length of the English Channel in four weeks. I will swim 22 miles which equates to 35,405 metres, which is a whopping 1,416 lengths of a 25m pool. I have set up a justgiving page and only a week into the challenge I have over £250!

If you’re not one for swimming, then why not try holding a coffee morning or a sponsored silence or selling homemade cards? Whatever you do you’ll be helping disadvantaged craft makers and farmers work their way out of poverty.

If you would like to sign up to the £1,000 Challenge you can download our £1000 challenge pledge  form by clicking here, or for more information please send me an email.

challenge

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Is Corporate Social Responsibility a ‘fashion trend’ for businesses?

With growing interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), generally the actions and activities undertaken by businesses to monitor their contribution to social and ethical issues, fair trade is a relevant and important issue.  Businesses looking to act responsibly should be looking at fair trade as one way to realise this goal precisely because of the social, economic, environmental and other ethical issues on which fair trade is based.  Whether an office is buying fair trade tea and coffee for its staff, a business converting its products to fair trade or investing with Shared Interest to further support the fair trade businesses it buys from, there are numerous possibilities to incorporate fair trade into your CSR policy.

It was with this interest in CSR policies and issues that I responded to a recent poll on Twitter entitled ‘Within business the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is often regarded as a management fashion. Do you agree?’ The link can be found here.  The poll closes on Saturday but so far the response has been 53% No, 37% Yes and 11% Don’t Know.  It is always interesting to see how people perceive the actions of others, whether they are big businesses or not, and how these organisations are then supported or otherwise as a result of their actions and accountability.

What do you think?  Is CSR a ‘fashion statement’ used by business or does it give businesses an opportunity to show their commitment to the ‘bigger picture’?

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Connecting Fairtrade Towns

The Fairtrade Foundation have just launched a new interactive website where those involved in Fairtrade Towns around the world can connect with each other.

The new website, which can be found at http://fairtradetowns.ning.com, works like an online networking site, similar to Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. You can create a profile for yourself or town and contribute to conversations, make friends with others in fairtrade towns and access resources or find out about events going on. The site already has 154 members and is growing daily with members from the UK, France, USA, Poland, Brazil and Ghana among many others.

This is a great way to keep in touch with what is happening in other fairtrade towns, exchange ideas and experiences so why not sign up nad find out more about what’s going on in your area?

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Labelling a Threat to Fair Trade

In an attempt to get a foothold into the green and ethical consumer movements, there have been a spate of new ethical certification labelling schemes that have been introduced – fairly traded, organic, shade grown, rainforest friendly are but just a few examples. So, does the introduction of these new ethical labels lead to a more informed consumer?

Research done by Konstantinos Ioannidis, a friend of Shared Interest and Ph.D Candidate at Panteion University in Athens, shows that rather than helping educate the consumer, the opposite is true – consumers are actually more confused than ever before.  Not only do competing ethical certifications confuse the consumer, but this competition leads to a devaluation of all marks involved.

The fundamental issue is how do consumers know which certifications are legitimate and which ones are simply marketing ploys that play upon their desires to be ethical?  In a recent post from the ‘Labor is Not a Commodity’ blog, evidence was presented that showed that the popular Rainforest Alliance certification had rather dubious corporate connections.

Rainforest Alliance & Kraft
Kraft has been a Rainforest Alliance “partner” since 2003. Kraft is listed in Rainforest Alliance’s annual report as a donor that gave between $100,000–$999,999 in 2008 and supported Rainforest Alliance events with more than $10,000 in the same year. Former Kraft executive Annemieke Wijn is a member of the Rainforest Alliance’s Board of Directors.

Such strong financial and structural connections between the corporate purchaser between the standard setting and certification group are a conflict of interest, as Kraft has obvious incentives to meet its publicly declared purchasing commitments at the lowest possible cost. It should be of no surprise that Kraft Foods, Inc. was awarded the Corporate Green Globe Award by the Rainforest Alliance in 2006.

Rainforest Alliance & Chiquita
To recover from a weakening market position, Chiquita began working with Rainforest Alliance in 1992 to promote greater corporate social responsibility. By 2000, all Chiquita bananas grown in Latin American farms featured Rainforest Alliance’s happy green frog. This was from all vantage points a good thing, a great step towards minimizing the social injustices that plague large plantation production in the third world. In 2002, with the release of “Tainted Harvest: Child Labor and Obstacles to Organizing on Ecuador’s Banana Plantations” however, the veil was pulled by Humans Rights Watch. The farms investigated in the article, farms certified by Rainforest Alliance, relied on child labor, violated basic labor rights and suppressed attempts at unionization. In response, Rainforest Alliance went back and re-inspected the plantations in 2003, but maintained all their certifications.

This is the kind of evidence that damages the entire ethical certification movement and is a real tragedy for those legitimate organisations like FLO and the WFTO  – both of which have done a fantastic job building a reputable brand around their respective labels using a set of transparent and auditable trading standards as the foundation.

So where do we go from here?  Unfortunately, I don’t know. Please feel free to share your ideas with us in the comments section.

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Rollercoaster in Guatemala

The following is a Business Development Update by Hugo Villela, Regional Development Executive, Central America

Hello colleagues… Here are some thoughts coming from my latest experience in Guatemala, a trip from 9th to 12th June, 2009. This trip was not to look for new customers… it was to look after our customer service, as one customer has struggled with contracts and management of pre-finance recently.

Guatemala is a country where most of the people are descendent from Maya cultures. They have a central left president, more concerned with social development, but with a scandal of accusations for the assassination of a journalist who was involved in the research of a corruption default from Banrural (a local bank) and Anacafe (The Guatemalan Coffee Association). Most of the population chose this president expecting more respect for human rights, which were constantly violated in the preceding years from the army and paramilitary groups. A feeling of deception is in the air everywhere.

The trip to Guatemala was to San Pedro Nectar, a town in Huehuetenango near the Mexican border. Three weeks before my visit, 17 local drug smugglers were executed by Mexican cartels (other drug smugglers from Mexico). How to describe the context? …Huehuetenango is one of the 10 best coffee origins in the world, where coffee is mainly grown by small indigenous farmers. The local people don´t have a culture of drinking good coffee, they drink instant coffee, which was very bad for me, expecting a good coffee from this region!

The landscape is wonderful, green mountains in this season, deep canyons with white-water rivers, indigenous people walking along the roads, wearing traditional clothes and kids everywhere. The journey from Guatemala City (the capital) to San Pedro Nectar took seven hours. That meant I had to take a plane the day before, so that I could travel during the day, because in Guatemala personal security needs to be taken seriously and you can´t drive in the night. When I asked to rent a car, the rental company asked where I planned to go, and I said to Huehuetenango. The people who worked there told me that I should not travel alone. I took some precautions because the financial manager from Asociacion Chajulense (a customer) travelled with me, so that I didn´t look like a tourist asking “where is San Pedro Necta?”

On one hand the most recommendable option would be to take a 4X4, but on the other hand the people in the rent a car store asked me to rent a Sedan…so I don´t call the attention of bad guys. It is interesting how people give you advice, and that you need to keep your attitude ready to take on board what the common sense for people living there will be. Sometimes that is different than our own common sense from where we come.
This travel was like a sentimental rollercoaster, because when you see the needs of the producers and the poverty of their region you understand the relevance of our facility with them.

I have to recognize the support of Asociacion Chajulense to our Huehuetenango trip. I couldn´t have done this trip without their support. Special thanks to Freddy.

That was my experience… after long drives… and a flat tyre we were back to Guatemala City. I hope from this trip everything will now be sorted out for our customer in Guatemala…

Best regards and until next time!

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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