This marks the start of fair trade fortnight. A self employed man from our lent group was espousing the joys of fair trade in the world of business last week. He had been challenged by another entrepreneur that fair trade goes against the principles of business. Business is there to make as much money as possible. He then went on to explain that fair trade may be against the principles of business but making money at the expense of others was against his own principles. Personally, I feel that even this fair trade ideal is the only way that society can function and still call itself ‘human’. To use others in slave labour and sweatshops is inhuman.
However, I get the feeling that what started as a great ideal may have become sucked into the world of corporate branding. Why do I say this? The leaflet I was handed yesterday was produced in a wonderful glossy format resplendent with fantastic images. The tea picker in Africa was washed and dressed in the finest clothes money could buy before the photographer went out and took a very arty shot (plenty of bokeh) of her in the field. It looked more like a model shoot for Vogue. Having spent a month last year working in Kampala, the whole thing looked very artificial. It felt like a brand marketing exercise has begun from this inspired ideal.To put it another way, there is another company that has an ideal that benefits those it touches.
Weight Watchers produce products that are low in calories and fat. Many of them are only produced as weight watchers products and have no other counterpart. However, weight watchers wine is, to all intents and purposes, exactly the same dietary requirement as any other bottle of wine. In the same way, fair trade wine sits on a shelf next to bottles of Sancerre. In the same manner, at what point does fair trade become a branding exercise and miss the real issue behind it – making the mainstream brands sit up and take notice and fairly trade their products. Fair trade should in theory be putting itself out of business as it no longer becomes necessary to change your brand to ensure that there is global trade justice.
Think fair trade. Eat fair trade, drink fair trade and wear fair trade. Insist on fair trade. Not just from Café Direct but from whatever brand you would like to drink!