Playing Fair – Fairtrade and you!
Ok, so, hands up who has had days of repeatedly asking their little darlings to share, to be kind to others, and to play fairly (cue large show of weary hands)? But do we all practice what we preach? I'm talking about the simple, everyday purchases we make in our grocery shop, or when buying new clothes or toys. Nowadays most of us are all too aware of the way large multinational businesses are run. Documentaries and articles all too frequently expose this or that company for their poor conditions and we often hear of the low wages for individuals in developing countries that provide many of the things we buy. Hmm.. doesn't sound too kind or fair does it? Think of the chocolate treats we buy for our little ones. For many large brands, the cocoa farming process may involve children that will have been over worked rather than being schooled, and who will never have the means to every try a piece of chocolate. Certainly makes it taste less sweet, doesn't it? As parents ourselves, this should speak very loudly to us.
Thankfully, there is a very easy way we can help to change at least some of this – by choosing Fairtrade certified goods whenever we can. Fairtrade means a better deal for farmers and producers in developing countries. The Fairtrade symbol is the only one that guarantees fair wages for the front line workers and improved working and living conditions. Such improvements can range from basic essentials like water pumps, to housing and school resources, thereby assisting communities to become independent; basic hygiene and education are crucial to help any community develop. What's more,the global Fairtrade body actually includes some of the workers themselves among the board of directors, so the real needs of the individuals are represented and discussed.
There are, of course, the familiar arguments – why should we be made to pay extra so farmers get a better deal? And surely this is too large a problem for individuals to tackle? Well, for the former, yes Fairtrade items can be slightly more expensive (though not always, many own brands such as Sainsbury's Red Label are Fairtrade certified), but the small increase in price for us has a far reaching impact to those producing the goods. As for the latter, never underestimate the power of consumer choice. When I was a student a few (ahem!) years ago, I remember that a few bars of Maya Gold chocolate and the odd Cafe Direct tea bag in Oxfam shops were pretty much all the Fairtrade certified goods that were easy to get hold of. Fast forward to today, and the Fairtrade symbol can be found on an increasing number of products in every supermarket and a large number of websites. Sugar, tea, coffee, chocolate, nuts, bananas, mangoes, cotton – the list goes on. The Fairtrade Foundation values the sales of fairly traded products at well in excess of £1 billion per year, and large multinationals like Cadbury's are now producing Fairtrade certified chocolate. These changes have all come about through campaigns and consumer power.; the more we choose fairly traded goods, the more supermarkets and manufacturers will step up.
In addition to buying choices, you can be further involved through campaigning
We all know it's very easy to forget about such issues in the hustle and bustle of daily life – how can we think about Changing the World if we barely have time to sit down for lunch or go to the loo without at least one person following? And yet, a few small changes to the way we shop can have a huge impact. Then, next time you are sat among a sea of toys after a busy day, you can take comfort in the fact that the (now tepid) tea you are sipping and the one biscuit your toddler hasn't stolen have helped make a real difference to someone's life.
*A big thank you to the local NCT who have agreed to show their support for fair trade by serving Fairtrade certified tea, coffee and biscuits at NCT events*