Re-establishing the importance of Fairtrade: A forgotten cause?

With many important causes gaining traction in social discourse, Lucy Warmington highlights why Fairtrade should not be forgotten.

Founded in 1997, Fairtrade is a non-profit organisation that “changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries.” For decades, the importance of buying Fairtrade produce had been emphasised and widely shared, and the blue and green Fairtrade mark became an influencing factor to many consumers. Recently, focus has turned more to avoiding plastic packaging or buying organic produce, but Fairtrade shouldn’t become a forgotten cause.

In 2019, the EU issued a directive which prohibits unfair trading practices and protects weaker suppliers from being exploited by stronger buyers. This is a sign of progress, but the directive only applies if either a supplier or buyer are within the EU. So, for products which have been produced outside of the EU, checking for the Fairtrade mark is still one of the only guarantees it has been ethically sourced.  

As the world’s most popular drink, the coffee industry is especially vulnerable to unfair trading practices and exploitation. In 2015, the global value of coffee was estimated at $200 billion, but only 10% of its value stayed in its country of origin. One way to change this is by buying Fairtrade coffee. Most supermarkets offer a handful of Fairtrade options, but it is harder than expected to find Fairtrade coffee in cafés. In fact, it may surprise you which companies are Fairtrade certified, and which are not. Starbucks, for example, has worked with Fairtrade since 2000, and Bewley’s (Ireland’s biggest coffee company) is committed to being 100% Fairtrade. Meanwhile, your local indie coffee shop probably doesn’t have Fairtrade coffee. That’s not to say you should take all your coffee business to Starbucks and stop supporting your local café; you definitely shouldn’t – multinational corporations like Starbucks have countless other issues. Independent coffee shops often prioritise ethical supplier relationships, even if it’s not Fairtrade certified, but seeking out a Fairtrade alternative to your regular choice does make a difference. 

When you buy Fairtrade products, you contribute to improving living standards for farmers and workers.