Fairtrade: the world’s fastest growing grassroots movement?

28Jan10

Keswick, Saturday morning and at the invitation of the Cumbria Fairtrade Network I attended their AGM.

If you don’t know what Fairtrade hopes to achieve, then follow this link (and welcome to the 21st Century).

It’s been around for some time now, since 1992 in the UK, but the Fairtrade movement might just be the most important grass roots movement in the world today.

International in its scope, humanitarian and environmentalist in its objectives (in that order) and the epitome of a profoundly just cause; it’s hard to walk away from any meeting with Fairtrade advocates without being reminded of Wilberforce, Pankhurst, Hardie and the causes they fought for. All three changed the world for good and the Fairtrade foundation is doing this today, as I write this post.

There’s something about the Fairtrade movement which reminds me of the Obama campaign. It represents ‘new’ politics in its truest sense, reaching across divisions of party, gender, class, age, race and religion. It binds people together in the pursuit of a shared ideal: creating a better world. The foot soldiers of the movement are enthusiastic, committed and increasingly successful. Perhaps most importantly, any anger they feel towards the system which embeds poverty amongst third world producers (and across the world) is suppressed by an optimism which insists that change is possible, and that they can help to deliver that change.

They are right; yes they can.

One of the most pervasive, damaging myths which many people believe today is that they are ‘powerless’ and that they cannot change the world around them. This is a dangerous and false belief; Fairtrade’s success demonstrates this. Every one of us has the power to spend our money on the products of those companies which use Fairtrade suppliers and to boycott those who refuse to play fair. We can all write to newspapers, politicians and companies and we can all seek to influence change inside and outside of the boardroom. The power to influence change is all around us, we just have to use it.

Over 100 people on a cold Saturday winter morning turned out to demonstrate their support for Fairtrade in Cumbria. Away from the despatch box, the artifice and the trivia of media driven machine politics; real politics and real people acting collectively to make a difference.

Fairtrade is here to stay and it has my support for as long as it takes. Parliamentary questions and letters to CEOs written by me in an attempt to advance the Fairtrade cause will follow and will be posted on this site.

Stay tuned.

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2 Responses to “Fairtrade: the world’s fastest growing grassroots movement?”

  1. 1 CopelandRocks

    While I do value everything the Fairtrade movement stands for, there is one thing that troubles me.

    When I was a student – and shortly after – when I was earning the minimum wage or not much more, I was very thankful for supermarket “value” brands. It at least meant my meagre budget could cover my grocery bill, however, it is often the “value” brands that have been sourced in the most unjust ways.

    How do you square the honourable principles of Fairtrade with the realities of living in poverty in Britain in the 21st Century?

  2. Hi CopelandRocks,

    It’s only because of the movement, that Jamie Reed has so powerfully written about, has Fairtrade been able to reach the success it has today. Word-of-mouth and shoppers writing to their stores and people shouting about Fairtrade to their community and politicians means businesses and retailers have finally got the message that we want to spend our money on ethical products. So companies like Sainsbury’s have switched all their OWN BRAND banana’s and sugar and tea to Fairtrade! The Co-Op switched it’s Basic own brand chocolate to Fairtrade chocolate. M&S has switched all it’s hot drinks to Fairtrade – to name but a few. As the popularity of Fairtrade has grown, so has the variety for consumers. But it will only keep on growing if we keep Demanding it!
    :)


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