29th September 2009

Starbucks: the marketing of ethics

Starbucks recently switched the majority of its coffee to Fairtrade in the UK and Ireland. After years of over-marketing their fair trade credentials in their stores and on their marketing and educational materials, the reality is catching up with the rhetoric.

Mind you, the rhetoric has stepped up another gear too, with a massive multimillion-pound ad campaign launched to squeeze out as much ethical mileage as possible. Like the big budget television ad focused on Fairtrade and Ghana currently being run by Cadbury, the Starbucks campaign marks an interesting point where, in this country at least, Fairtrade has become not so much a burdensome extra cost for companies as a powerful marketing tool.

17th August 2009

Fairtrade Cadbury: Altruism or Self-interest?

As reported widely over the past few weeks, Fairtrade Dairy Milk chocolate bars are at long last rolling off the production line at Cadbury’s Bournville factory. This is a momentous, if long overdue, event for the fair trade movement, increasing all UK Fairtrade sales by 25% in one swoop and making the Fairtrade Mark visible in many more retail outlets.

The Fairtrade certification of Dairy Milk is a massive piece of ‘choice editing’, in a similar way to when Sainsbury switched all its bananas to Fairtrade. Usually ethical consumers have to make an active choice when buying Fairtrade products. When switching completely to Fairtrade bananas, Sainsbury addressed the fact that most people won’t actively seek out products that address issues such as sustainability and human exploitation, but will buy them when they are their only choice and they are right under their nose. The fact that Cadbury has followed suit by converting the most popular chocolate bar in Britain to Fairtrade, so placing Fairtrade in every newsagent and supermarket in Britain at no extra cost to the consumer, is a welcome development.

The development does also mark a big shift in the balance of power within the fair trade movement, raising all the big questions that arise when multinational companies adopt the Fairtrade Mark. So while it is an excellent thing, we need to be wary and thoughtful about the long term impact, and in particular ensure that the Fairtrade mission is not compromised or weakened in any way.

4th May 2009

Q&A on Mars and Cadbury

The last two months have seen two of the biggest chocolate industry players announce major ethical certification initiatives.

Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar will be Fairtrade certified in the UK and Ireland by the end of 2009, with plans to convert more of their range, and Mars are working with Rainforest Alliance to sustainably source all their cocoa by 2020, starting with Rainforest Alliance certification for the Galaxy bar in 2010.

To put these announcements in context and explore their significance, we put some questions to Mars and Cadbury, and to three external commentators...

17th April 2009

Global survey on Fairtrade

Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), the global Fairtrade certification umbrella body, has commissioned the first ever global consumer survey on Fairtrade. It was carried out by GlobeScan, and involved a sample size of 14,500 people in fifteen countries.

The results are encouraging reading. The survey shows that ‘active ethical consumers’ make up just over half the population (55%) in the countries surveyed. These consumers are willing to reward or punish companies that meet, or fail to meet, their expectations, and they influence others with their opinions.

Half of the public (50%) in the fifteen countries are now familiar with the Fairtrade mark and of these people, nine out of ten (91%) trust it. The survey also shows that 64% of all consumers in the surveyed countries believe that Fairtrade has strict standards, a quality that FLO says closely correlates to consumer trust. And 72% of all consumers believe independent certification is the best way to verify a product’s ethical claims.

16th March 2009

Who Owns Fairtrade?

Trading Visions, in collaboration with the LSE Centre for Civil Society, held a well attended public discussion debate on Tuesday 24th February 2009. The topic was 'Who Owns Fairtrade?'

Some of the themes explored included:
• the contradictions of fair trade being a consumer brand as well as a movement;
• the fact that ownership can be claimed by such a wide range of stakeholders, from Fairtrade schools to Sainsbury;
• the contrast between the rigours of certification for small scale producers and the ease of involvement for large corporations;
• the ideal and reality of the fair trade partnership along the value chain.

You can watch and listen to the panellists and the discussion below.


Kate Sebag

Kate is co-founder of Tropical Wholefoods and has also worked in Uganda developing fair trade fruit drying. Tropical Wholefoods is based in a Soil Association certified factory in Sunderland, and produces snacks, foods and natural soaps.

Rajah Banerjee

Rajah is a tea plantation owner, his life’s work has been to convert the Fairtrade certified Makaibari Tea Estate in Darjeeling to organic permaculture, with tea bushes integrated into a wider subtropical forest ecosystem.

Katie Stafford
Katie is a sustainability consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. She was previously at Marks & Spencer, where she worked on the launch of Fairtrade cotton products and the move to Fairtrade coffee.

Dyborn Charlie Chibonga
Dyborn is CEO of the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi, which represents over 100,000 small scale farmers. He also serves on the board of the International Nut Cooperative which is selling Fairtrade nuts under its own UK brand, Liberation.

Pauline Tiffen
Pauline is an independent consultant focused on helping small-scale producers in Africa and Latin America profit from the international marketplace. She is a founder of two Fairtrade companies, Cafédirect and Divine Chocolate.

Questions and Discussion

The whole debate is available as a podcast.

4th March 2009

Dairy Milk Goes Fairtrade

Cadbury and the Fairtrade Foundation have announced that Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate bar, and its hot chocolate beverage, will become Fairtrade certified in the UK and Ireland by the autumn of 2009.

Dairy Milk is the UK's best selling bar, with 300 million of them being produced every year. The chief executive of the company, Todd Stitzer, says he plans to convert their other chocolate brands to Fairtrade "as soon as we can do it". Dairy Milk represents 20% of Cadbury's chocolate range.

22nd February 2009

Small farmers, big solutions

Fairtrade Foundation hosted a conference today on the global food crisis, accompanied by a succinct and timely report researched by Mark Curtis.

Tens of millions of people are now suffering the effects of increased and volatile food and fuel prices, including the world's 450 million smallholder farming households, home to around two billion people. Average food prices rose 83 per cent between 2005 and 2008

19th February 2009

Fairtrade sales continue to rise

The Fairtrade Foundation announced today that Fairtrade sales rose 43 percent over 2007, defying the economic downturn and reaching an estimated retail value of £700m in 2008. The number of families regularly buying ethical tea, coffee, fruit and clothes in 2008 rose by 1.3 million to 18 million.