It is World Fair Trade Day again! An opportunity to celebrate, and reflect, on the opportunities we have every day to shape how trade works.
Does this sounds too idealistic? Think again. No matter who you are, every time you buy a banana, or every time your business decides what to source, you played a role. The same applies if you need to decide how you farm, or even what messages or policies to stand by as a government representative or activist. We are all interconnected. Cause and effect.
Instead of this being a barrier to social justice, let’s make this connectedness a strength. Because we are connected, we can actually join forces to shape, not only the future, but the present.
One farmer or worker alone may struggle, but together she and her neighbors can form a cooperative to have a better stance in negotiations, improving their business and their community.
One company working alone to do business more sustainably, may help a few hundred farmers or workers, but challenging the sector they work in, making their partners and competitors do the same, changes hundreds of thousands of lives.
One person on their own, changing habits and shopping fairer can stand for something, but that person inspiring another one who inspires the next person soon becomes a community that demands for change.
The effect is even greater when we work across our sphere of influence. Producers with brands, consumers with organizations, governments with businesses, and beyond.
Below are some inspiring cases of people breaking silos around the world to make fair trade the norm. Will you join?
From India to Sweden: changing the fashion world, one pair of jeans at a time.
A cold, rainy street in downtown Gothenburg, Sweden could not be much further from the hot, dusty cotton fields of Yavatmal in central India – yet there’s a strong thread which links the two communities.
Gothenburg is home to Nudie Jeans, a fashion brand set up in 2001 which sources organic cotton for its range of jeans and other clothing from the Fairtrade certified Chetna Organic company in Yavatmal.
“What makes Nudie Jeans so special is our core focus on sustainability issues. Since day one, we’ve been working very hard to create a modern, sustainable business model,” says CEO and co-founder Joakim Levin. “Fairtrade is an important piece of how we work with our supply chain, since the cotton industry is a problematic industry. Working with small farmers who are generally quite poor, Fairtrade gives them stability of course, and it can help them out and create a more sustainable and healthy supply chain, that’s something we are very interested in.”
“When we travel to India to visit the farmers and the villages, we see what a difference it makes,” says Jenny. “Of course, once you’ve done that, you want to do more and you want to do better. If you’ve been to these small villages and seen the impact it has for the farmers and their families – especially for the girls – then you’ll never want to buy any other sort of cotton.”
“Our aim has always been to work in a sustainable way with organic cotton, but when we started that was quite a new concept in the textile market. For a long time now we’ve tried to work sustainably in all aspects of the business, both socially and environmentally,” says Jenny. “We always try to work with sustainable fabrics, and we’ve come a long way. Our hope is that more companies will follow us in the future, that they will start buying organic and Fairtrade cotton. That’s the future – other alternatives are not as sustainable and they don’t help the cotton farmers.”
Behind strong coffee lies a strong community
High in the hills above Salamina in the stunningly beautiful Caldas coffee growing country in Colombia, a quiet revolution has taken place. In this corner of Latin America, women are challenging gender stereotype, running a successful coffee farms and managing a cooperative with around 2,300 members.
“I think that as a woman, my role in the cooperative is very special,” says Liliana, Liliana Andrea Valencia Duque, President of the Cooperativa de Caficultores del Norte de Caldas. “Very few women get the opportunity to represent coffee growers. I want the world to know about our work to make women visible, performing jobs where they feel valued and stimulated.”
Besides their strong coffee, the coop is especially proud of its work promoting women’s health. About four years ago they started a day of promotion and prevention for women’s health. “Last year we expanded the programme so that around 150 women could have breast examinations. It’s been a really beautiful experience for the women, they feel very loved by the coop, they feel valued and they known that women are important for the organization.” explains Liliana.
Lindelia Quintero Suarez, Director of the coop adds: “It’s important because previously they had to go to another city to have these breast examinations, and they were very expensive. Now they are done here and I’m very happy and encouraged that women will continue to have them.”
“If we did not have Fairtrade certification we would not have received the extra resources from a growing market which allowed us to develop the healthcare program,” says coop manager Cesar Julio Díaz Lasso. “Fairtrade certification generates additional resources which are very important for the farmers and cover many of their needs which the money from conventional coffee farming would not meet.”
Scoring for a fairer future
An excited bunch of girls and boys kick up clouds of dust as they chase footballs on a training pitch in Goa, India. Some of them are so small their football shirts reach down to their knees. Just another bunch of soccer-mad youngsters enjoying a kick-about? Not quite – these are the kids of the Forca Goa Foundation, and they’re playing with Fairtrade footballs.
The Foundation was set up by Forca Goa FC, one of India’s top football clubs which competes in the Indian Super League and last year won the Indian Super Cup. The aim is simple – to use the power of football to transform the lives of youngsters in Goa.
President and co-owner Akshay Tandon takes up the story. “We decided to use football as a way to bring people together and create a state-wide grassroots program,” he says. “We set up the Forca Goa Foundation on three pillars – sustainability, empowerment and football.”
From the beginning, the Foundation has been guided by Fairtrade principles. “Fairtrade can be seen as a set of values or virtues, on the basis of which we conduct ourselves,” says Akshay. “We believe that Fairtrade is the right value system to use, so that when these children grow up, they have the same values that Fairtrade represents.”
From embracing the use of Fairtrade products – not just footballs but t-shirts and football jerseys as well – the Foundation focuses on empowering girls and young women through sport.
“With our campaign we make sure that girls are not only developing on the field but that also they have all-round development,” says Josline Dsouza, who works for the Foundation. “We not only look to develop the footballing skills of the children, but we look at the social aspect as well. We try to get the children aware about social issues and environmental issues.”
“We run daily training sessions but it’s not just about playing football,” says Ishita. “After every training session we have something called a Learning Pitch, where we teach our children about sustainability, gender equality and good health and nutrition. We strive to educate all the children about the importance of using sustainable products and being champions of sustainability.”
From a coffee farmer choosing climate resilient methods, to someone choosing to buy sugar made under fair working conditions, everyone’s decisions matter and ultimately influences how trade works.
On World Fair Trade day, let’s remember together we can make this cause-and-effect a strength by choosing accordingly.
We’re in this together
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