Happy Halloween

Shared Interest staff have been known to use any excuse to relive their childhood years and what better way to do this than with some competitive pumpkin carving for Halloween.

As far as I’m aware there’s not yet such a thing as a Fair Trade pumpkin but a quick google search for Fair Trade + Halloween throws up a few ideas on how to make your Halloween fair trade – from handing out fair trade chocolate minis to Global Exchange’s Fair Trade trick or treat Action kit. It seems to become easier each year to make whatever you do just a little bit Fair Trade which I’m sure you’ll agree is a good thing.

I’ll let you be the judge of the Shared Interest staff’s pumpkin carving skills.

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The Best of Times and The Worst of Times

Good Deals 2009, the Social Enterprise conference, was a huge success yesterday at the British Library.  Organised by social enterprise magazine the event showcased a number of social enterprises and support organisations through panels, debates and workshops as well as pitch slots for a lucky four social enterprises.  The event was hosted by Liam Black of Wavelength, and the lesser spotted social investment partridge (aka the British Library fire alarm).  We were welcomed with the positive news that since the last Good Deals conference in 2008 social investment had moved from the marginal to the mainstream, much in a similar way to fair trade.

We heard from a number of speakers including Angela Smith from the Office of the Third Sector, Nigel Kershaw from Big Issue Invest and Jonathan Jenkins of UnLtd, a fan of the IPS model which Shared Interest uses.  We heard pitches from four social enterprises pitching for finance, including Happy Kitchen and the Ethical Property Company.  Those of us who were unlucky in getting to the stage to pitch were offered sixty seconds of video time to pitch for investment and these will be available on You Tube shortly.

Liam Black played the role of Parkinson in the afternoon hosting ‘The Big Interview’ with among others, Anne MacCaig, CEO of Cafedirect who began with a video showing Cafedirect’s work to support their producers in tackling the effects of climate change on their crops.  We also experienced ‘Social Investment in Court’ where cases were made for and against a number of issues and the concept of bringing the Community Reinvestment Act to the UK was voted hugely in favour of.

The day concluded with a wine networking session and no further evidence of the Social Investment Partridge, whom I hope has gone to spread the message about social investment.

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Customer Focus Equal Exchange Inc

Established in 1986 Equal Exchange Inc (EEI) have for a long time been pioneers in the fair trade coffee market. They offer coffee, tea and chocolate products from over 30 farmer cooperatives in 18 countries. They are now 93 worker owners strong, with a broader network that includes 400 loyal investors, more than 300 food cooperatives, hundreds of cafes and other stores, and more than a million consumers. 2008 was a very productive year for EEI. With a sales growth of 17% they experienced their most profitable year in their history, testament to the foundations laid and commitment of their knowledgeable team.

We have been working together with Equal Exchange, Inc since 1995. The facility we operate with EEI is a unique one. They operate a buyer line of credit for their fair trade purchases and also guarantee a line of credit for producers who either do not have access to a Shared Interest account or do not have enough credit available on their own line.

Working together, Equal Exchange and Shared Interest are helping to create sustainable fair trade businesses that allow producers in the developing world the ability to trade their way out of poverty.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a customer of Shared Interest, please click here to visit our website.

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Fairtrade Coffee Only 3% of US Market

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.

I was in a shop getting bagels the other day when I asked for my daily cup of Fairtrade coffee. The guy behind me said, “I read that fair trade isn’t doing the coffee farmers any good”. I asked him what he meant, and he said that fair trade wasn’t “fair” and was hardly a fraction of the coffee trade so, “why bother?”

I find this often in the US; most people either don’t understand what fair trade is or they confuse it with “free” trade–so “why bother?”

Coffee is one of the most important commodities in the world. It is produced and exported by nearly 60 nations, is one of the top cash crops and is critical to the economies of several developing countries. In some developing nations, producers receive only USD$0.30 per pound of coffee when export prices are over three times higher. In one African nation, producers earn an average of only USD$0.09 per pound. Nearly all coffee sold in North America is imported from developing countries. The North American coffee market accounts for over one quarter of global coffee imports in value (27 percent in 2005), and the United States is the world’s single largest buyer of coffee.

Coffee is also by far the most important Fairtrade product. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization International (FLO) indicates that sales of certified Fairtrade coffee worldwide were up by 53% in 2006. Nearly half of this volume was sold in North America. TransFairUSA calculates that Fairtrade coffee represents just 3 percent of the US retail market. The FLO Standard is a guarantee of a Fairtrade Minimum (or floor price) that is based on the estimated cost of sustainable production. The minimum price ranges from USD$1.01 to USD$1.21 per pound depending on the type of coffee and the country of origin. There is also an additional USD$0.10 per pound which is a premium paid to cooperatives for use at the community level for social and economic investments. When the coffee is certified organic, an extra premium of USD$0.20 per pound is also paid. Continue reading

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Fairtrade in the Capital

After finding my way into the tardis like building that it London’s Guildhall I spent yesterday afternoon in the thick of Fairtrade action in London.  Celebrating their 1st birthday as a Fairtrade city the Fairtrade London campaign held a workshop with activities, tastings, networking and presentations.

We were welcomed by Emma Bara and Rev George Bush of the Fairtrade Campaign in the City.  Following these introductions Veronica Pasteur of the Fairtrade Foundation took on her role as member of the Fairtrade London Campaign and talked us through the successes of London in the past year.  A number of events including the Fairtrade banana flash mob in Trafalgar Square, Farmers of the World Unite on May Day and Holland Park’s Environment Day were all mentioned as highlights of the campaign so far.  All these events are ones at which Shared Interest also had a presence, showing we’re getting involved in the right places in the South East but we’re always looking for more opportunities.  Hannah Reed then told us about the Fairtrade Towns work and the plans for 2009.  One of the highlights was hearing a real case study from Zaytoun.  Manal Ramadan told us about the progress made by Zaytoun in supporting Palestinian olive farmers and their achievement of gaining fair trade certification for their olive oil.

We had a discussion session around Fairtrade Fortnight 2010 in preparation for activites for ‘The Big Swap’ and the theme of tea.  I’m not sure that a Fairtrade tea costume is going to be as easy as a Fairtrade banana costume was for last years’ events!  Get your thinking caps on for suitable ‘tea’ themed events and ways to achieve the target of 1,000,001 people making ‘The Big Swap’.

We were treated to a tasting session by Cafedirect which was an eye opener.  Similar to wine tasting we were encouraged to sample oranges and chocolate before tasting the coffee.  Slurping is the best way to ‘taste’ the coffee and a room full of adults making such noises was certainly an entertaining highlight of the evening!

A workshop around the Fairtrade London Campaign discussed the soon to be launched website with interactive blogging pages for each London Borough.  So get your blogging caps on and get writing about what’s going on with fair trade in your borough here.  There will also be a ‘Best of Fairtrade’ interactive map where you can add your favourite local cafe, shop or venue supporting fair trade and write a few words about why you support it.

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Spotlight on Fairtrade Businesses – JIVA FAIR TRADING

Each week, Shared Interest will highlight a business who is activiely promoting Fairtrade in their community. This blog post does not imply endorsement by Shared Interest. Please contact us if you would like the ‘spotlight’ on your company.

Jiva travelled widely in India, Nepal and Thailand for nearly 10 years, falling in love with the warmth and ready kindness of the people there, and seeing how their lives of reduced material clutter and a life closer to nature led to a greater sense of harmony and community. She was also greatly moved by the harsh material conditions of their lives in countries with no social welfare or health care, and resolved to offer them ‘a hand up’ through her business in the UK.

She continued to travel in Asia, but now with a renewed sense of purpose, seeking out groups and NGOs to work with.  She continues to look for more groups who are supporting themselves and the wider community through their craft skills.

Among the groups Jiva loves working with are the Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal, who make the beautiful woolly hats, gloves and socks, as well as the singing bowls, incense and carved wooden masks. As refugees in India, Tibetans can never have a government job and are often discriminated against by locals, and without the export of their traditional handicrafts, would find it hard to survive. Profits from the sales go to fund the Tibetan children’s schooling in many schools throughout India, and care for orphans where necessary – a sadly high number with the continued violence in Tibet.

Another group is an NGO in Delhi that fund-raises for various social and environmental projects, as well as disaster relief. They make their money by making gorgeous colourful canvas bags, giving the workers good working conditions and pay, with all the profits going to the good causes.

Jiva also fell in love with the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, and found a wealth of beautiful Fair Trade silver in the area. Made by hill-tribe people, the production of this jewellery gives them a chance to earn some money for modern necessities, and enables them to stay living in their traditional tribal groups and keep their culture alive. It also reduces their need for slash-and-burn agriculture, and thus indirectly helps to preserve the jungle in the area.

As well as selling online, Jiva Fair Trading is a regular at Hastings Farmers’ Market. She will also be at York Big Green Market 5-8 November, Kings Langley Steiner School Advent Fair 28 November, Horsham Fair Trade fair 5 December, Eastbourne Magic Sparkles fair 6 December, Wimbledon Keen Green and Ethical market 10-13 December, Oxford Keen Green and Ethical market 18-21 December.

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Its time for Fairtrade 2.0

This is taken from a lively fair trade discussion with some of my fair trade Twitter friends: @angryafrican @Kon_Ioannidis @otherdiscovery @gentlemandad @fairtradelu @rhyminsimon

Here are some things that I believe.

Business will always act in its own self interest – profit driven. Therefore the onus is on the consumer to dictate what is in business’ best interest through the purchases that they make.

In order for consumers to do the right thing (make ethical choices when they make their purchases) millions of pounds have to be spent educating and informing. Part of this is the establishment of a trusted mark/certification that consumers readily recognise as symbolising an ethical decision.

These realisations have given us Fairtrade 1.0. I think we all agree that Fairtrade works to some degree, but it is not enough. What we need is Fairtrade 2.0.

The problem with Fairtrade 1.0 is that the emphasis on being ‘fair’ is on the producer – from the legal structure (co-operative) to environmental standards, working conditions and wages of the workers. For the most part, all the buyer needs to do is to prepay a certain percentage for each order and then ensure that the price paid meets the minimum price required by the scheme. The amount of effort to comply with Fairtrade standards is disproportionate favouring, yet again, the buyer.

This has basically allowed companies like Starbucks and Cadburys to reap huge marketing benefits with very little associated costs and having absolutely no skin in the game. Whilst this is better than nothing, the affect that Starbucks and Cadburys have on producers is nothing like the effects derived from the relationships between Divine, CafeDirect, Traidcraft, etc and the producers with whom they work. To fully understand the depth of the true fair trade buyer/seller relationship, I recommend visiting the Twin Trading website (thanks for the tip Dr. Scott).

The problem is that the consumer doesn’t understand that not all Fairtrade is equal. Until they do, they will continue to buy Starbucks thinking that they’ve done their part to save the world.

Fairtrade 2.0 will occur when FLO requires buyers to comply with much higher ethical standards, like those that are already being practiced by the previously mentioned companies. With these new standards, FLO must introduce a new mark (e.g.Fairtrade Gold) that tells the consumer that purchasing this product does more for sustainability than simply purchasing a similar product that only carries that traditional Fairtrade mark.

I believe that people will make the distinction and will choose to do more with their purchasing power. This, in turn, will make it more profitable for businesses to do whatever it takes to get the gold level certification.

Real change only takes place when consumers demand it and it’s time that FLO started holding buyers to higher standards.

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Locals supporting Locals

An issue that comes up time and time again within debates of fair trade and local produce is that of ‘Do I buy local or do I buy fair trade?’ My approach to this has always been if it can be fair trade buy that, so things like tea, coffee and flowers (all of which are bought regularly in my household) are all fair trade on my shelves. However, things like potatoes and eggs I buy those produced locally. This is a very crude division as you will notice that it wouldn’t be possible for me to buy locally grown tea or coffee! Also, as far as I am aware there aren’t fair trade options available for potatoes and eggs.

However, one country in which there is increasingly the option to buy locally produced Fairtrade products is South Africa. On my recent visit I learnt that in the five months in which South Africa has been able to label its own fair trade products, under the Fairtrade Labelling South Africa initiative, seven products have been certified which are also available to buy within the country. This means were I to be doing my shopping in South Africa it would be more likely that I could buy Fairtrade products which had been produced in my own country. This is an exciting development for fair trade as they can now be sold in home markets, not having to depend on exports for trade.

Export trade will undoubtedly continue to play a vital role in fair trade, although our weather may be getting hotter I’m not sure how soon it will be until we can grow tea on a scale large enough to meet our nation’s demand for it, and therefore there will continue to be a need for organisations like Shared Interest who are involved in supporting fair trade businesses and facilitation of international trade of fair trade goods. Fair trade being traded locally however opens up markets to help us make all trade fair trade. It is from consumer demand that we are able to increase the proportion of trade which is fair trade. By buying more Divine chocolate for example we can make sure that the co-operative behind Divine, Kuapa Kokoo, can sell 100% of their cocoa as fair trade, as supposed to the approximately 5% which is currently sold as fair trade. By taking on ‘The Big Swap’ to encourage as many of the nation’s tea lovers to convert their cuppa to fair trade the Fairtrade Foundation hopes to increase the percentage of Fairtrade tea consumed in the UK. Go on, give fair trade a go.

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Fairtrade Foundation Supporter Conference

There was an excited ‘buzz’ on Saturday at the Fairtrade Foundation’s Supporter Conference.  The announcement that DFID have given £12million pounds to the Fairtrade Foundation started the conference off with a bang.  This finance, which will be used to support fair trade producers in achieving fair trade status, was announced by Douglas Alexander to a room of 400 fairtrade supporters.  Proceedings moved to the awarding of the Fairtrade Fortnight Awards which were sponsored by the Shared Interest Foundation.

Shared Interest’s involvement didn’t stop with the sponsoring of the awards.  The winners of the Outstanding Achievement Award are Burgess Hill Fairtrade Steering Group headed by a Shared Interest Ambassador (Robert Eggleston), the best Fairtrade Event was won by fair trade in Bolton and the event was attended by Ruth Taylor (Supporter Relations officer for the North).  Finally, the winning photograph, taken by Simon Kimber, features myself in my much loved fair trade banana costume as I was joined by Shared Interest Ambassador Kim Hull and her daughters at the Fairtrade Fortnight Finale of ‘Go Bananas’, a fair trade flash mob in Trafalgar Square.    We were shown the preview of the activities for Fairtrade Fortnight 2010, with the theme ‘The Big Swap’, focusing on getting people to swap their cup of tea for a fair trade cup of tea.

In between the workshops and debate at the conference Shared Interest held a stall in the market place where we were assisted by Ambassador Pat Wallace and visited by Ralph Eales, Iain and Shelagh Baird-Smith as well as numerous members and potential members and Ambassadors.  We spoke to many fair trade supporters who were hearing about Shared interest for the first time, which showed we still have a long way to go in disproving our theory that we are ‘Fairtrade’s best kept secret’.  However, by getting involved in events such as the Supporter’s Conference we are on our way to becoming ‘Fairtrade’s best known secret’.  We need your help in doing this.  Do you know a group who would like to hear more about Shared Interest? A school involved in fair trade and may be interested in learning how they can get involved with Shared Interest?  Perhaps you could spare some time to join our network of Ambassadors to volunteer time in helping us raise awareness and investment?  As Renwick made clear, it is only by working together that we can see the change we want.  Many drops make great rivers flow.

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News from the North by Ruth Taylor

This month I attended the Brampton Synod, when Methodist Church members and Ministers came along to their regional meeting. Revered Sue Wilkins had kindly offered a stall to Shared Interest, so I was on hand to explain how individuals and church groups can invest in fair trade businesses.

Brampton has an active fair trade steering group and is part of the Hadrian’s Wall fair trade campaign. This is hoped to be the world’s first heritage site to gain fair trade status, as all businesses and organisations along the Hadrian’s Wall corridor are being encouraged to ‘go fair trade’. Click here for more information.

I have continued my work of raising the Shared Interest profile in Durham. This month I was able to deliver a short pitch at the Durham Business Club on Shared Interest and Corporate Social Responsibility. I also went along to the Durham Fairtrade Steering group, where plans are now well underway for an alternative fashion show on the 21st October. I will be running a Shared Interest stall at the event. Event information is available from the Tourist Information Centre.

Finally, this week I had the opportunity to be interviewed live on Radio Tameside at a fair trade conference in Ashton under Lyne. Jurang Fairtrade hosted a conference as the area steps up its fair trade activity. Jurang provide a fairtrade supply service to business “a vending machine – without the machine” as the slogan goes. For more information click here.

There are two fairtrade events in the pipeline, which I will be able to confirm with you in the next newsletter. However, if anyone lives in or around Stockport and is free on the 14th November, please get in touch as, subject to confirmation, we are planning to be part of an event in the area.

I look forward to meeting many of you at the Ambassador training over the next couple of months.

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