|Fair Trade Communities: Growing the Fair Trade movement in Australia and New Zealand|
|01 December 2012|
The Fair Trade movement in Australia and New Zealand has been gaining momentum despite the global financial crisis, or perhaps because of it. With the growing inequality between rich and poor, people are wanting to know more about Fair Trade. Many people, once they have begun their journey into trade justice, are on the lookout for new ways to get more involved. The Fair Trade Communities program is an important tool by which to challenge the inequities embedded in conventional trade.
The Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (FTAANZ) set up the Fair Trade Communities program to introduce the Fair Trade principles to community organizations, to encourage workplaces, faith groups, schools, universities and city councils to switch to using Fair Trade products and participate in the Fair Trade movement. Organizations sign up to a set of goals to convert to Fair Trade products and promote Fair Trade within their area of influence. In return, their organization is recognised by being awarded status as a Fair Trade Community. Through the Fair Trade Communities program, organizations are empowered to make a difference by helping introduce Fair Trade products to colleagues and friends, explaining how they are increasing demand for products made and traded according to Fair Trade principles which helps support more sustainable livelihoods for producers who are vulnerable in the current dominant global trading system that favours more powerful countries and large corporations.
The Fair Trade Association launched the Communities program in 2007 as part of the International Fair Trade Towns program. Communities was chosen, as the overarching name, as communities are the key building blocks. There are 5 sub-categories: Fair Trade work places, faith groups, schools, universities and Fair Trade Towns (city councils being the key building blocks for policy/decision making). The Association incorporated the Core Principles of the International Fair Trade Towns Campaign.1 Recognition as a Fair Trade Community requires meeting minimum criteria (a signed resolution, 2 Fairtrade Certified™ products), with progressive goals to add more Fair Trade products, including craft products made and/or traded by accredited WFTO members, and commitment to host activities to promote and grow the Fair Trade movement.
In just 5 years, 539 Organizations signed up to be recognized as Fair Trade Communities in Australia and New Zealand: 11 Fair Trade Towns, 58 FT schools, 161 FT Faith Groups with more than 300 FT Workplaces committed to purchasing Fair Trade coffee and tea for their staff/members and actively promoting Fair Trade in their community. Globally, there are more than 1,100 Fair Trade Towns in 23 countries. In 2012, the number of Fair Trade Universities in Australia doubled from 4 to 8. A campaign was launched to get all universities to be Fair Trade Universities by 2015 at our 2nd Annual Fairly Educated Conference, hosted by 5 Fair Trade Universities, which gathered 80+ students across Australia/NZ. This year’s highlight in New Zealand was Auckland’s recognition as the largest Fair Trade City in the region..
Each Fair Trade Town is unique. Some begin with a group of committed activists persuading friends, family and local shops to get involved, others are started by a local authority as a way of taking practical action around their commitments to sustainable development. Whether you live in a small town, city or island you can join the global revolution and make your community a Fair Trade Town. (see guidelines and How to Get Involved on www.fta.org.au)
FTAANZ encourages communities to focus on hosting events on World Fair Trade Day which coincides with Fair Trade Fortnight in Australia and New Zealand. In 2012, more than 60,000 people participated in Oxfam NZ’s Biggest Coffee and Chocolate Breaks, Lord Mayors in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney helped launch public events including Fair Trade Art Exhibitions and markets, Fair Trade cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs and Academic Forums.
Sales of Fairtrade Certified™ products alone topped A$220 million in our region (A$160 million in Australia, A$60 million in New Zealand), an increase of 40% on last year. This is a significant achievement as the Fairtrade Labeling Organization has only been licensing traders to carry the label here since 2005. Global sales are over A$ 6.2 billion sales (€5 billion), still less than 1 percent of international trade.
Since the launch of the Fairtrade label in 2005, recognition of the Fairtrade Mark has reached 44% in Australia and 51% in New Zealand. Prior to 2005, small businesses and wholesalers had no local access to Fair Trade credentials by which consumers could distinguish them as Fair Traders; they could not even be licensed locally to use the Fairtrade Certification Trade Mark. Fairtrade Certified™ commodities were only available through European licensees. Fair Trade products have been available in Australia/NZ since the 1960s primarily through just two Fair Trade Organizations: Oxfam shops in Australia, formerly Community Aid Abroad (CAAT) and TradeAid New Zealand, both founding members of the WFTO. A group of student activists changed the face of Fair Trade in our region when they got together with importers and wholesalers of tea, coffee and chocolate, Oxfam and TradeAid in 2003 to form the Fair Trade Association (FTAANZ). From the start, members agreed to support both craft producers accredited through the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and small farmers/workers certified by Fairtrade International. The Association set up a local labelling initiative, Fairtrade ANZ. The next goal was to replicate the success of the European Fair Trade movement in Australia and New Zealand characterized by a relatively small population spread over an immense geographic space.
Timing has been a key factor to success. The launch of Fairtrade label here coincided with the Oxfam’s hugely successful global ‘Make Trade Fair Campaign in 2005-2007. Secondly, FTAANZ could follow the success of the UK Fair Trade Towns campaign launched in 2000 which was rapidly spreading to other European countries as an effective way to raise awareness and sales of Fair Trade products. Then social media took off, favoured by students and social activists, it enables people to connect across our vast geographic landscape.
As awareness of Fair Trade grows, membership in the Fair Trade Association is growing from a handful of members in 2003 to almost 200 members plus over 500 Fair Trade Communities. Many new businesses want to help small crafts producers, women’s groups in particular, as well as farmers, get access to more sustainable livelihoods through Fair Trade so the Association established an assessment process based on WFTO’s system so trading members could be endorsed as Fair Traders who demonstrate compliance with International Fair Trade principles. Endorsed traders can now use the Fair Traders of Australia logo (www.fairtraders.org.au) to promote their business, increase credibility and the range of identifiable Fair Trade handicrafts that are available. Since the program launched in 2011 FTAANZ has endorsed 15 Fair Traders of Australia.
What is special about FTAANZ and our Fair Trade Communities program is that it is inclusive and participatory. It values the Fair Trade movement as a people’s grass roots movement that challenges conventional trade, demanding a more transparent equitable trading system where vulnerable producers and workers basic rights are upheld to ensure sustainable livelihoods for all.
By Linda Chalmers
1 Local council passes a resolution supporting Fair Trade, and agrees to serve Fairtrade Certified™ products 2. A range of fair trade products are available locally 3. Schools, workplaces, places of worship and community organisations support fair trade and use fair trade products whenever possible. 4. Media coverage and events raise awareness and understanding of fair trade across the community 5. Fair Trade Steering Group representing different sectors is formed to co-ordinate action around the goals and develops them over the years.