This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight is coming up, and even though it’s a well-known term, you might wonder exactly what it means and where you can find genuine Fairtrade products. Well, to help you prepare for the event which takes place between 27th February – 12th March, we’ve put together a little guide on what it means when you see a Fairtrade label on a product, and how to utilise those vast online resources to find top quality and interesting Fairtrade items…
What Does Fairtrade Mean?
Well, to a certain degree, its name is fairly self-explanatory, but the Fairtrade label is no meaningless marketing device. In order to carry it, manufacturers must adhere to strict international standards. These include the product (or ingredients) coming from small-scale plantations that meet their social economic and environmental standards. These include paying the Fairtrade minimum price, re-investing in the business and protecting workers’ rights.
Common Fairtrade Products
Perhaps the most you see the Fairtrade sticker in your shopping is stuck to a banana (but by no means all bananas, so keep an eye out), but you will also easily find Fairtrade sugar, coffee, chocolate, wine, tea, flowers and cotton. Of course, it’s not uncommon to see the Fairtrade logo many times on your regular trip to the supermarket, so what point of difference can shopping online offer?
Specialist Fairtrade Retailers
Some independent food suppliers wear their ethical credentials on their sleeves, using this as a way to separate themselves as different from larger brands and companies. The internet is packed the rafters with these sorts of retailers, and once you’ve checked the Fairtrade accreditation on their site (this information should be readily available), then you can be safe in the knowledge that ordering most, or all, of their products means you’ll be keeping in step with Fairtrade thinking. Also, there’s the added bonus that most of their items taste pretty good too – think first class coffee, chocolate and tea. Yum.
Your Virtual Supermarket Shelves
It’s no surprise to find that your favourite supermarkets are pretty savvy when it comes to all things Fairtrade these days. For example, on the Sainsburys site, you can narrow down your product search to Fairtrade only – this is straightforward for their fruit and veg section (just tick the Fairtrade box), and for other categories, just click the dietary and lifestyle options drop down menu and you’ll find it here. Another way supermarkets are boosting their ethical stance is by using Fairtrade ingredients in their own-brand products, such as the Sainsburys Taste the Difference Belgium Fairtrade Milk Chocolate. Much easier to dig out online than scouring those supermarket shelves, we think you’ll agree.
Other Ethical Terms
If you want to delve deeper in the ethical food market, it pays to be aware that just because a product doesn’t have a Fairtrade label, this won’t necessarily mean that the company doesn’t follow other ethical standards. For example, on the Hotel Chocolat site is a detailed explanation of why they thought the Fairtrade model didn’t necessarily go far enough for their particular aims, and prompted them to set up their own programme of sustainability. And even though there are a lot of Fairtrade wine bottles on the UK market, this is a world in which different producers adopt a number of different practices to reflect their ethical stance – many wines are labelled as ‘sustainable’ and this often requires a bit more research into what they mean by this (although this often adheres to a set of standards similar to Fairtrade), and many manufacturers of organic wines often make the effort to extend their ethical practices in other areas too.
Basically, buying both Fairtrade and ethical products requires a little bit of extra research, and on the whole this is a lot easier to do online, where this sort of information is readily available, than on the high street or in the supermarket. The Fairtrade logo provides certain guarantees and is a useful tool for improving the ethical credentials of your shopping, but be aware there are other ways companies go the extra ethical mile.
By Anna Scott, 20th February 2017