I regularly look at product labels because that is part of my job. So when I come across a label that says Direct Trade, or even “Direct Trade Certified,” I have to wonder why a brand would compel themselves to create something for consumers in order to differentiate themselves that really doesn’t mean much. As someone that has worked in the fair trade movement for 15 years, I always dig deeper into those claims to see what they really mean.
Many brands are frustrated by fair trade certification, and let me be very clear, it is certification, not fair trade they are frustrated with. There is a social movement to change the way we trade globally, allowing small-scale producers to participate and thrive, and to provide social services locally in impoverished producer communities that are not provided by local or federal governments. That social movement is called fair trade and it is alive and strong. It is fair trade certification that is broken. Fair trade is more than a logo or a brand, it is a movement to strengthen communities.
Read the entire article here.
The following article about one of our cashew trading partners, Fair Trade Alliance of Kerala (FTAK), appeared in yesterday’s on-line issue of the Guardian.
A walk through the annual Kerala seedfest, in the sultry heat of India’s Western Ghats, is like a walk through a proverbial garden of Eden; okra the size of a hand; deep purple coloured runner beans; 26 varieties of chillies from one village alone. The size and colours of multiple bananas on offer here make a mockery of the fact that your average supermarket sells just one type.
With women and men standing proudly alongside their produce, this celebration of seeds and biodiversity is the future of farming: it is abundant, resilient and most importantly, smallholder led.
As farmers cope with the dual crises of a changing climate and rising population, the debate rages about the future of agriculture, with large-scale agribusiness being pitted against smallholders. In one corner, agribusiness is perceived as more efficient and technologically savvy; in the other corner, the smallholder is portrayed as less productive and in need of charity. Scale is generally perceived as the measure of success in farming, as with everything else: farmers are effectively told to expand, innovate, or move on.
But a collective of 4,500 farmers who call themselves Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) are at the annual gathering to demonstrate their own third way: small scale, innovative, market-embracing and sustainable.
Read the full article here.
Click here to read about a visit Equal Exchange made to FTAK in 2013.
On Christmas Eve 2014, journalists working at the Guardian received the following email from their editor, Alan Rusbridger.
This time next year I won’t be the editor of the Guardian: indeed, well before that I’ll have stepped down.
I’m not at all depressed. This is the right time to be moving on. But I do have an urge to do something powerful, focused and important with the Guardian while I’m still here. And it will be about climate change.
Sometimes there’s a story so enormous that conventional journalism struggles to cope with it, never mind do justice. The imminent threat to the species is the most existentially important story any of us could imagine telling – for our sakes, for our children and for their children. But, as journalists, we also know that we sometimes tire of telling, and that people tire of reading.”
Rusbridger’s email sparked a series of discussions among his team, eventually leading them to take on, “The Biggest Story in the World: The Race to Save the Earth.” The journalists began focusing on stories that would motivate readers and listeners to understand the desperate need for urgent action. In March 2015, they initiated a full-fledged campaign, entitled Keep it in the Ground. Based on the work of Bill McKibbon, who founded the 350.org climate campaign that launched the divestment movement, the Guardian is calling on the world’s biggest medical charities – the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – to divest from fossil fuels; and to encourage others to follow suit … before it is too late.
It now appears that the work of Bill McGibbon, 350.org, the Guardian, and many other activist organizations and individuals is growing exponentially. On September 22nd, the Guardian ran an article, “Institutions worth $2.6 trillion have now pulled investments out of fossil fuels,” in which they announced that a coalition of 2,000 individuals and 400 institutions have pledged to shift their assets from coal, oil and gas companies to tackle climate change.
“Scientists agree that most existing coal, oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground if global warming is to be kept below the internationally-agreed danger limit of 2C. This means that, if action on climate change is successful, the vast majority of fossil fuels will be unburnable and the companies owning those reserves could crash in value. Many coal companies have already seen their share prices crash as limits on carbon emissions get stricter…”
“…The fossil fuel divestment movement, aimed primarily at stripping legitimacy from fossil fuel companies, has grown faster than even the divestment movement that targeted apartheid South Africa and it is backed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”
The list of institutions and individuals who have pledged to Divest-Invest continues to grow and the heat is on, so to speak, to gather as many pledges as possible before the COP21 Climate Talks in Paris this December. In the words of Leonardo DiCaprio, who just took the Pledge for himself and his foundation, “Climate change is severely impacting the health of our planet and all of its inhabitants, and we must transition to a clean energy economy that does not rely on fossil fuels. Now is the time to divest and invest to let our world leaders know that we, as individuals and institutions, are taking action to address climate change, and we expect them to do their part in Paris.”
Here closer to home in the U.S., we at Equal Exchange have seen first-hand, not just the brutal storms that have devastated parts of the Northeast, the droughts and wildfires that have ravished the West, and all the other evidence of climate change in our own communities, but sadly the impact that unpredictable weather patterns and unusual climatic occurrences are wreaking on our farmer partners across the Global South. So many of the advances that our farmer partners have been able to achieve through our work and the Fair Trade model, are tragically disappearing. In fact, the livelihoods – and in some cases, the very existence – of many small farmer co-ops is now threatened.
But, there’s even more exciting news since this Guardian article was published! Equal Exchange has joined a coalition of 18 environmental and social justice organizations working with Divest-Invest to encourage individuals to join this growing movement. While the work will continue on, we have all agreed to step up our efforts, through October 18th to collect as many pledges as possible. As of this morning, the number has grown to 24,868!
And so, for the sake of our farmer partners, ourselves, and families, and the health of our planet, we invite you to join us to take the Divest-Invest Pledge. Whether you are a thousandaire, a millionaire, or have no money at all, taking the Pledge NOW sends a strong message!
Last August, Equal Exchangers Meghan, Casey, Jim, Ellen, and Lincoln joined the ranks of hundreds of other activists doing their part to stop Shell Oil from drilling in the Arctic. (If you didn’t have a chance to read their gripping stories of the Shell No! Greenpeace action in Portland, click here to do so!)
So, congratulations to our Equal Exchange West Coast team, and all the other kayaktivists, general activists, and other leaders for winning the fight! Shell has abandoned plans to drill for extreme oil off the coast of Alaska!!
In the end, of course, it wasn’t actually a boat, a petition, or even a swipe of President Obama’s pen that Shell claimed had changed their plans and stopped them in their tracks: it was economics, pure and simple. Costs ran over and investors dried up.
Divestment and clean energy investment are sweeping the planet. In the last 2 weeks, Celebrities like Leo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffulo and more have divested. While institutions and leaders have pledged to move their money – over 2.6 Trillion and counting! – out of fossil fuels and into the clean energy economy.
The latest big news was Mayor Bill Deblasio of New York who is beginning to move the pension funds of America’s largest city out of dirty fossil fuels and into clean energy instead.
If you’re ready to join these leaders from the stage and screen to the streets of New York by owning what YOU own, Click here to sign the Divest Invest pledge with great partners like Divest Invest Individual, Equal Exchange, Daily Kos, 350.org and more.
Read more about Equal Exchange’s climate justice initiative, and how you can help, here!
During Pope Francis’ much heralded visit to the U.S. last week, he gave top priority to the pressing issues of economic disparity and injustice, and the threat that climate change poses to humanity and to the planet. In his speeches before Congress and again at the United Nations, Pope Francis urged world leaders to take the threat of global warming seriously and to act quickly to take steps to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to this crisis. He also talked about the ways in which climate change disproportionately affects the poor and reminded us that those of us in the North need to shoulder the burden of responsibility to address this crisis.
“Very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system,” he writes in his June 18, 2015 Encyclical “Laudato Si.” “This problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels.” He goes on to say, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.” And finally, on page 122, he writes: “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay…. Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world.”
Politics and business (as usual) have indeed been slow to react. And this is why it is up to us…. progressive businesses, workers, activists, engaged citizens… We know from history that change happens from the bottom up and that vested interests (in this case, the fossil fuels industry) never willingly give up power or their economic interests.
Equal Exchange has joined a growing number of organizations that are working to build a citizen movement to stand up to these interests and say No to the fossil fuel economy and yes to a clean energy future. Just like the apartheid movement and the anti-tobacco movement, thousands of voices (and our dollars) can make a difference. Click here to read about our Climate Justice Initiative and please click here to add your name to the thousands of people taking the Divest-Invest pledge.
It’s time to take action!
Please sign the pledge today!
Interested in Fair Trade certifications but still confused about the difference between Fair Trade International and the Small Producer Symbol? Read a brief synopsis from Fair World Project of a new article by Patrick Clark and Ian Hussey which compares the two.
A new article by Patrick Clark and Ian Hussey just published in New Political Economy compares the certification systems of Fairtrade International (FTI) and the Small Producer Symbol (SPP), looking at internal and external oversight, governance structure, and covering the history of fair trade certification through which FTI evolved and SPP emerged. For those wanting a theoretically-grounded, academic overview of these two systems and some key issues in how fair trade certification functions, this is an excellent overview.
A few key points were made that would be of interest to even the average observer. Read more here.