I am Head of the Business School in the Faculty of Sciences and Social Sciences, and a lover of chocolate; or, to be more precise, a lover of the Divine range of 'heavenly chocolate with a heart'. Divine is the brand name of chocolate produced by a company set up by a co-operative of farmers in Ghana that now boasts 45,000 members. I worked for Divine from its beginnings in 1998. No one ever gave us a chance. It was like David taking on Goliath - the chocolate market was so congested. After five years with the company, I moved into education to share my experience of developing a fair trade company and explain to students how Divine had worked within a modern business environment.
I am now acknowledged as an international authority on, and a passionate advocate for, fair trade; my PhD thesis explains how fair trade companies compete. I have written extensively on the subject, worked as a consultant and given evidence to a House of Commons select committee. I am a member of the Co-operative Retail Group's Responsible Retailing Advisory Panel and chair Liverpool's Fairtrade Steering Committee. Fair trade and business ethics are topics that students talk about in coffee bars after lectures. They learn of research that shows that the fair trade customer is very loyal. Organic products struggled as the worldwide recession took hold but fair trade sales continued to grow. Before fair trade, if you had asked people in the high street where chocolate came from, they would have said Switzerland or Bournville. But the growth of the movement has made clear to consumers the challenges faced by farmers in countries such as Ghana. Fair trade has brought consumers and producers together. My research on the rise of CafÃ© Direct, a fair trade pioneer, was published in the Journal of Business Ethics. The next stage of my work will be to examine whether standards are lowered when fair trade products move into the mainstream: the farmers in Ghana now sell a large amount of cocoa to Cadbury, enabling the company to market its Dairy Milk brand as a certified Fairtrade product. My research will also move into greater depth on the challenges of setting-up and managing those fair trade companies where farmer ownership is central to their model. I have also been contracted to carry out a research evaluation of the farmer-owned fair trade nut company Liberation.