It seems that Sainsbury’s supermarkets are going ahead with a pilot project in which they pull out of the Fairtrade certification (the Fairtrade Mark) on fairly traded tea given by the Fairtrade Foundation.
We are all now familiar with the fair-trade logo on many products which independently guarantees that producers of tea, coffee, sugar, bananas etc. will not only get a fair price for their produce, but also a small premium which provides additional investment in their local communities, education etc. in many of the poorest parts of the world.
The Fairtrade Foundation has issued this simple statement:
‘The Fairtrade Foundation is not partnering with the new Sainsbury’s Foundation pilot in tea due to fundamental concerns that it falls below the core principles of Fairtrade and particularly because farming groups in Africa felt that it would take control away from them.’
On the Fairtrade Foundation website, you can read an open letter from tea producers in Africa explaining why they will not co-operate with Sainsburys in this venture. (http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/Media- Centre/News/May-2017/Open-letter-to-Sainsburys- from-Fairtrade-producers)
Cadburys (their new owners) offer a better model. They retain the Fairtrade mark and are co- operating with the Fairtrade Foundation in a new scheme to help Cocoa farmers: ‘Cocoa Life’. Unlike Cadburys, Sainsbury’s is acting unilaterally, not in partnership with the Fairtrade Foundation.
The principles of Fairtrade and of international development are to empower local communities around the world rather than wielding power over them which is what the new Sainsbury’s move does. No wonder the farmers are accusing Sainsbury’s of acting in a colonial manner.
It is a disturbing development by a supermarket which has made a very significant contribution to international development by its support of the Fairtrade movement.
It seems that Tesco also are planning to move their fairly traded offee away from the Fairtrade mark to another ‘RainforestAlliance’ certification mark which can only confuse shoppers and muddy the waters.
It seems to me that it is not just up to Sainsbury’s or Tesco to make this decision on their own. We, the shoppers,use them as a conduit for our own giving to help others less fortunate than we are. They are changing the way our money is used.
Can we trust a packet which says its contents are “certified fairly traded”? Who certifies it? Who sets the standards that must be adhered to? Any self-regulation carries the risk, or the likelihood, that self-interest, profit, convenience and other motivations will muddy the waters.
The Fairtrade Foundation is not a perfect organisation, but it is a very good one, and it should be strengthened in its work, and not undermined by Sainsbury’s or Tesco.
Have a great summer and don’t stop protesting!