Interview about Fairtrade

Gail was interviewed at the Good Shepherd on Sunday 24 September 2017.

When and why did you start the Fairtrade stall?

I learned about the movement for fair trade as a teenager. I’ve always believed that this is a great idea – it means people in developing countries can have the dignity of earning a decent living. For me, an important part of being a Christian is caring about people across the world and caring about our planet. I think that buying Fairtrade products is an ideal way to do both of these.

5 years ago when we moved to our flat, because we have a lot of space for storage, it seemed a great opportunity to start running stalls at our 2 churches. So I ran my first stall here during Fairtrade Fortnight in March 2013.

What exactly does the Fairtrade Mark mean?

There’s a worldwide system of inspection and certification that covers the producers in developing countries, the traders and the final products made in countries such as the UK. Everyone involved has to work hard to ensure that they meet all of the standards so that they are entitled to use the Fairtrade Mark. The standards cover 3 areas of development: social, economic and environmental development. So, for example, certain pesticides are banned and so is child labour.

For producers in developing countries, there are 2 main benefits:

  • The Fairtrade minimum price: This is the lowest possible price. When the market price is higher, the producers are paid in line with this. A minimum price is important because it gives the producers certainty that they will be able to at least cover the cost of production.
  • The Fairtrade premium: This is a sum of money that is paid in addition to the agreed Fairtrade price. It must be used for investment in social, environmental or economic development projects. Typical examples are education, healthcare, improvements in farming methods and processing facilities. Each group of producers chooses democratically how their premium will be used.

What’s involved in running the stall here at church?

Well, on Sunday mornings, I pack up the stuff at home then bring it down here and set up. After the service I run the stall. When I get home I count the money, check how much stock I’ve sold, and how much I have left, and then place an order to re-stock anything that’s getting low. It really helps me that John works at home because we get a lot of large parcels delivered to our flat.

I buy from a Christian-based company called Traidcraft. Every month I look at any new products that they have and decide whether I think I’ll be able to sell them. I also write a monthly news email which I send out to the people who have signed up for it. I check whether I have any stock that’s nearing its best before date. And I think about whether there is anything else I can do, for example I’ve recently bought a card reader so that I can take card payments. And Julie has also started to help with running the stalls.

During Lent I also take orders for Fairtrade Easter eggs and in November I take orders for Fairtrade advent calendars. I often deliver these to people’s homes.

Overall, it’s not about making a profit; I’m just aiming not to make a loss.

Could you tell us a bit more about Traidcraft?

As I said, it’s a Christian-based company, which was founded in 1979. Their mission is to “fight poverty through trade”. It’s one of a small number of special companies that have fair trade at the heart of their business model, going far beyond just selling products which carry the Fairtrade Mark. Traidcraft has been a real pioneer in the area of Fairtrade, for example it helped create Cafédirect, the first coffee with the Fairtrade Mark in the UK. Traidcraft was the first company to sell Fairtrade wine, the first to launch Fairtrade cotton, etc. As well as food, it sells a lot of craft products, which make great presents. I don’t have them on the stall but I have catalogues available and can order them for you. Traidcraft also has a charity which supports producers in the developing world to gain Fairtrade certification.

At the moment Traidcraft is struggling with sales because a lot of people seem to think that the Fairtrade Mark has done its work, so we don’t need to support it anymore. Worldwide there are 1.4 million farmers and workers who are benefitting from Fairtrade, which is great. But, for example, only 8% of the tea sold in the UK is Fairtrade. So please keep buying!