JustShare Debate in partnership with the City of London Fairtrade Group:
'Can Fairtrade Prosper in a Recession?' Speakers: Prof Paul Palmer (Cass), Andrew Emmott (Twin Trading) and James Bennet (Fairtrade Foundation)
JustShare and the City Fairtrade Group were very grateful to Barnett Waddingham, a member of the Group, for hosting this debate, which concluded that Fairtrade is prospering in this recession.
Professor Paul Palmer noted that, fuelled by consumer demand, sales of Fairtrade products soared by 40% in 2010 to an estimated retail value of £1.17bn compared with £836m in 2009. Every day in the UK, we consume some 9.3 million cups of Fairtrade tea, 6.4 million cups of Fairtrade coffee, 2.3 million chocolate bars and 3.1 million Fairtrade bananas. Many companies can only dream of such growth even during times of boom; Fairtrade is clearly already prospering despite the recession. Secondly, Paul classified Fairtrade consumers as 'Fairtrade lovers' and 'Fairtrade likers,' noting that the typical 'Fairtrade lover' was a female aged between 31 and 44 with an average salary of £37,000. When compared with the average UK salary of £24,000, it was clear that 'Fairtrade lovers' had the means as well as the desire to pay a premium for ethically traded goods, and thus they were likely to remain resilient Fairtrade buyers despite the recession.
Andrew Emmott followed this theoretical overview with insights from his firsthand experience with Twin Trading, which manages Fairtrade coffee, cocoa, sugar, fruit and nut and supply chains from farmers in developing countries through to supermarket shelves in the UK. Using Liberation Nuts! as a case study, he noted that despite the volatility in commodity prices since 2007, exchange rate fluctuations and limited access to finance, Liberation's turnover had increased and it was making a profit for its smallholder farmers. Liberation Nuts! are sold in Sainsbury's, Tesco's, Waitrose and the Co-op, and ideas to add value to the products in-country rather than exporting them raw were now being explored. This would enable Fairtrade nutgrowers to prosper even more. Thus, whilst it was not easy, Fairtrade in the form of Liberation Nuts! is prospering despite the Recession.
James Bennett concluded with evidence that Fairtrade is prospering as a movement as well as a brand. Awareness of the Fairtrade mark was at 77%, understanding at 64% and trust at a phenomenal 90%. There were 500 Fairtrade towns in the UK, 5,300 Fairtrade faithgroups, 121 Fairtrade universities, 500 Fairtrade schools and 70,000 registered Fairtrade campaigners. Not many companies could boast 90% trust in their brand and a volunteer salesforce of 70,000! However, he added that there was plenty of room for more growth, both in terms of increasing demand still further and increasing the supply (number and range) of Fairtrade certified products.
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