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Expert comment: Fairtrade is for life, not just for a fortnight

Tony Bradley Monday 27 February 2017

Professional Tutor in Business Reverend Tony Bradley discusses the importance of Fairtrade products, on the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight.

Sitting here in my Business School office - sipping my fairly traded coffee from the Fresh Hope coffee bar and nibbling a Fairtrade biscuit (Fairbreak Choc Chip Cookie, Traidcraft 24358) - with the Spring sunlight streaming through my window, life is good. But, what makes it so? Well, I know that I have a brilliant job in a country that upholds justice, with an employer that treats me well and where our family have all the basics and are able to thrive.

That isn’t the case for more than half the world’s population, who live on less than $2.50 per day, with 20 per cent of children worldwide living in households surviving on less than $1.90 per day (Unicef, 2016). It isn’t a fair life for these people or the 50 million child refugees of war and famine, displaced in 2017 (in 200 children). Many of these are victims of violence, modern slavery, exploitation and trafficking.

The world is not fair. At the same time, many of those in desperate situations are helped by the incredible charity and generosity of people like you, in the North and west. But, many more don’t want our aid. They are much more concerned to live in a world that doesn’t owe them a living, but, rather, trades justly.

It is trade, not aid, which can most change the lives of millions of people involved in farming, agricultural production and supply chains. Well, that is the case if the trade is fair. Of course, this is not a new story. Indeed, it is easy to feel a certain degree of ‘compassion fatigue’ when faced with the sort of stats I’ve listed above.

Fairtrade Fortnight – which begins today – gives us an opportunity to re-assess our own purchasing priorities and to look again at the inequities of world trade. Nor is this a tired old issue. Since the Brexit vote and the election of the new US Administration, issues of global trade, tariffs and protectionism are more newsworthy than at any time since the 1930s. Indeed, Britain is at a pivotal moment where it can seek to play fair (a principle which we, apparently, exported to the world, from the playing fields of our top schools and colleges) in trade negotiations, provided we don’t descend into the unfair world of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

You might like to find out about the lives of people like Alexis Martinez Palacios, who works for Agrosiete, a fair trade banana packer in Colombia. Perhaps you are interested in the work of Cud Lie Mnong agriculture Co-op in Vietnam. Or, maybe, find out about the connection between Fairtrade and business sustainability. There are so many real people stories from around the world.

All of which is fascinating. Yet, for most of us, we want to know how Fairtrade connects with my all-too-busy life here and now. Well, Hope is running a number of events for Fairtrade Fortnight. Come along and find out why the ‘snap’ of a chocolate cube is an all-important test. Or simply enjoy a steaming mug of the best tea or coffee, with added justice. 

Which brings me back to where I began. In the spring sunshine, life is good. Fairtrade is for such a life in the sunshine of a more equitable world. And every time I go to our coffee bar I realise that things are not quite so dark as the headlines sometimes suggest – in Fairtrade there is Fresh Hope (and vice versa).

Unicef/The World Bank. 2016. Ending Extreme Poverty – a focus on children. Washington D.C.: World Bank Group.

Tony Bradley, Professional Tutor in Business, Liverpool Hope Business School

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