“You Can’t Wake a Person Who’s Pretending to Sleep”

The more I have learned about fair trade, the more I have realized how complicated global supply systems really are.  I have also realized how difficult it is to purchase truly ethical products, because a product that is “good” in one way may be “bad” in another way (e.g. is a product both socially and environmentally sound?).  This TED Talk explains some of the issues associated with unsustainable products and realistic solutions.  I recommend it to everyone, and yes, watch the entire video.

This TED Talk (“Jason Clay: How big brands can help save biodiversity”) mentions 15 Key Commodities related to the loss of biodiversity. These commodities are: palm oil, cotton, biofuels, sugarcane, pulp & paper, sawn wood, dairy, beef, soy, fish oil & meal, farmed salmon, farmed shrimp, tuna, tropical shrimp, and whitefish.  I have a particular interest in palm oil, for reasons that I will explain in another post; however, I am also interested in how fair trade could be applied to the 15 commodities and how fair trade could fit into the framework described in the video (if you have any ideas, please add them to the comments section).  Environmental sustainability is a crucial aspect of any system that will be fair in the long run, as this article rather direly outlines.

There are many things I love about this TED video, but I want to focus on the ones that I think are most applicable to fair trade.  The video discusses shifting the entire supply chain of the 15 commodities by focusing on the top 100 companies that control 25% of the trade of these commodities (for the full picture and details watch the video).  It will be difficult, but I think this could work for sustainability.  Could the same concepts be used for fair trade?  Could a more socially fair system be implemented at the same time as an environmentally sustainable system for the 15 products?

One of the things I love most about the video is that Jason Clay is not afraid to say that we, as consumers, should be paying the true price for our products.  I could not agree more, but I have found in my own experience that many people balk at fair trade because “it costs too much,” or “I can get the same product for less if it isn’t fair trade.”  Excuses like this ignore the very real social and environmental, as well as economic, costs of our consumerism.

This leads to another point made in the video, that sustainability needs to be an integral part of the global trade system, not a choice.  I agree, and I also think that social equity needs to be a part of the system, and not a choice on the part of the consumer.  I know, for example, that I have bought plenty of unsustainable and non-fair trade cotton shirts; wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where all cotton was fair and sustainable?  I know for sure that I do not have all the answers (but perhaps you have some, please comment if you do) but what I have realized is that we all have to stop pretending to be asleep.

Contributed by Fair Trade Intern Megan Draper

Bandi Mbubi: Demand a fair trade cell phone

Your mobile phone, computer and game console have a bloody past — tied to tantalum mining, which funds the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Drawing on his personal story, activist and refugee Bandi Mbubi gives a stirring call to action. (Filmed at TEDxExeter, LINK to this TEDx Talk).

You can also visit the website of Bandi’s organization, Congo Calling, to learn more.

Bruce Crowther: Fair Trade Way

Between Friday 24 and Wednesday 29 August, four Garstang Oxfam Group members and original pioneers of The Fair Trade Way will walk the route again to promote fair trade and trade justice and raise money for Oxfam and The FIG Tree in Garstang. They will be accompanied by dedicated Oxfam campaigner Push Krishnamurthy and take part in storytelling events along the way.

In this video, Bruce Crowther, founder of the Fairtrade Town movement and instrumental in establishing Garstang, UK, as the world’s first Fair Trade town, talks about walking the Fair Trade Way.

Follow the journey and find out more: www.oxfam.org.uk/fairtradeway


Now advertising – Honest Tea

I was watching TV a few weeks ago and did a double-take when this commercial came on:

Honest Tea!  I first became aware of Honest Tea when our campus began its journey to become a Fair Trade University.  I started noticing the product in local grocery stores with the “bucket boy” Fair Trade logo (which, by the way, Honest Tea is staying with Fair Trade USA certification).  And I was really disappointed that I couldn’t make it to NYC in April for The Great Recycle event – I applaud their efforts for awareness and action when it comes to recycling the bottles the tea comes in.  But I had never seen any advertising for Honest Tea – until this TV commercial appeared.  And not only has Honest Tea released its first television commercial, I saw a billboard today in Philadelphia for Honest Tea.

The advertising does not focus on the teas that feature Fair Trade ingredients, but all the bottles I have seen in the commercial and on the billboards show bottles with the Fair Trade logo.  I wonder if this will increase purchases of the Fair Trade varieties?  It would be great to see a mention or focus on the Fair Trade line of Honest Tea in this new advertising campaign – it seems that Honest Tea is missing an opportunity to inform consumers what this icon means on the bottle and what it means to the global community.

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin