Over 120 people from over 25 parishes attended a celebration at Holy Apostles Church, Pimlico on Saturday 1 March to mark Fairtrade Fortnight and its efforts to achieve Fairtrade status for the Westminster Diocese. Amongst the attendees was a large confirmation group from Sacred Heart & Mary Immaculate, Mill Hill. The event was chaired by Bishop John Arnold, chair of CAFOD’s board of trustees, and featured speakers from the Fairtrade Foundation, Divine Chocolate and Alexis Martinez, a banana producer from Colombia. Holy Apostles Justice and Peace Group organised a blind tasting of tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Fairtrade brands came out on top and, contrary to expectations, it was revealed that they were usually cheaper than the non-Fairtrade varieties!
‘It is two sides of the same coin’, said Bishop John. ‘In the 12 countries I have visited with CAFOD I have never met anyone who asked for something for nothing. All people want is a level playing field to support themselves. That is what Fairtrade tries to do by paying producers a fair price’.
One such producer is Alexis Martinez. He spoke of the enormous improvements in communities in Colombia where Fairtrade is involved. He explained that, besides economic improvements, it has also enabled a much greater degree of participatory decision making amongst cooperatives. The Fairtrade premium in Alexis’ community in Colombia has been used to build a school, and reduce levels of gang violence. He thanked the audience for their choices in buying Fairtrade, saying that it really makes a difference on the other side of the ocean.
Alexis and his interpreter
London may seem a long way from Colombia, but London is the world’s largest Fairtrade city, and so is therefore an important supporter of Fairtrade producers. Sophi Tranchell, Managing Director of Divine Chocolate, and chair of Fairtrade London, exhorted the confirmandi present to use their access to social media such as Facebook and Twitter to persuade their schools and parishes to support Fairtrade. ‘When I volunteered for Fairtrade in the 1980s’, she said, ‘I had to address 200 envelopes by hand to get people to come to a meeting. Now I can do it by clicking a button.’
Facts and Figures
- 1.3 million farmers around the world are benefitting from Fairtrade
- The UK is the biggest supporter of Fairtrade in the Western world
- In 2012, the Fairtrade market in the UK was worth £1.5 billion
- Each of us throws away on average £700 worth of food per year- money that we save on food wastage could be spent on Fairtrade goods
What can you do?
The first direct action you can take is to make sure your parish is registered as Fairtrade, if it isn’t already. Only 20 more parishes need to register as Fairtrade before the diocese can achieve Fairtrade status. To qualify as Fairtrade, your parish should:
- Use Fairtrade tea and coffee after services and for all meetings for which the parish has responsibility.
- Move forward on using other Fairtrade products (such as sugar, biscuits and fruit).
- Promote Fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight and during the year through events, worship and other activities whenever possible.
Once your parish meets these criteria, fill in an application form (found here) and send it in to us. We will then send you a certificate to display in your church.
Food is not the only commodity to receive Fairtrade certification. There is now Fairtrade clothing, beauty products, toiletries, gold, flowers and more! Sophi Tranchell told us that Fairtrade is a big part of her daily routine, from Fairtrade towels and pants, to tea and bananas. How many Fairtrade items can you work into your daily routine?
Fairtrade clothing has the potential to make a very big difference to cotton producers around the world. Michael Gidney, Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, and Sophi Tranchell agreed that the lack of progress in the fashion industry when it comes to Fairtrade is a big concern. While people are gaining more awareness about the origins of their food, they are of a different mindset when it comes to clothes. Big clothing manufacturers such as Primark and Topshop employ child labourers who work in appalling conditions in India and Bangladesh, just so they can sell their clothes at cheap prices to Western consumers. Presently, clothes made using Fairtrade cotton are usually more expensive. If we can raise awareness of Fairtrade cotton, and its importance to the textile industry, then the demand will increase and prices may drop. As we are approaching the first anniversary of the factory collapse in Bangladesh, it is important to make clothes fair and prevent such a disaster happening again.