Michaela and I have been interested in fair and ethical trade practices for some time. As a student, my final year thesis dug into this area. For some time we were Traidcraft representatives also.
In earlier times, fairtrade production was low scale and marginal. Who can remember the early instant coffees that tasted slightly like a mixture of sludge and gravy?
Fairtrade produce has become much more mainstream in the last few years. The supermarkets use Fairtrade as a niche selling strategy, and large companies like Cadbury’s, later followed by Galaxy have bowed to pressure and started to use fairtrade materials in their produce. Whilst the edges of what constitute ‘fair trade’ seems to be as fuzzy as ever, these larger scale moves towards breaking down the power of the multi-nationals and giving producers in the South a fair wage are great.
And then came recession.
Logic would suggest that during periods of recession people look to make savings on household bills. They are less willing to pay premiums for quality, and more likely to buy budget products. We might expect too that people will give less to charity, and buy less fair trade produce.
It is encouraging then to read this report from the Ethical Corporation Institute, which suggests that interest in ethical and fairtrade products is soaring.
I wonder why?
Is it possible that the aftermath of the consumer driven credit crisis has led to people examining again the lack of sustainability of our lifestyle? And the inequalities we depend on to maintain it?