Lent a Fairtrade hand

by Jez Smith

Day #5 (40acts): Buy Fairtrade. Suitably, for the start of ‘Fairtrade fortnight’ (27/02 to 11/03) the challenge today is to buy Fairtrade.

Working for Britain Yearly Meeting and being based at Friends House this is a relatively easy challenge as fairtrade products are a standard part of the operations and retail. In an audit of invoices to check the source of items in 06/2011 3% of fresh fruit and vegetables at Friends House and 20% of dry goods were Fairtrade certified.

At Friends House rice, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, sugar, nuts, orange juice, bananas, other exotic fruit when available are all Fairtrade-bought when possible. And it is part of standard operations to try and source Fairtrade whenever ingredients come from abroad.

Additionally, other products that are Fairtrade include herbs and spices from Suma, chocolate from Divine and Seed & Bean and snacks with Fairtrade ingredients such as flapjacks and ice cream.

Meanwhile, some of the products sold in the Quaker Centre are Fairtrade from Zaytoun, whose olive oil, olives, dates, couscous, sun dried tomatoes and soap are all available to buy. Just last week in the Quaker Centre I bought two delightful cuddly toys made from Fairtrade cotton and produced by the Bishopston Trading company.

As if that wasn’t enough, staff in the Friends House hospitality team wear polo shirts made from Fairtrade cotton and for Fairtrade fortnight some of them are wearing Fairtrade Fortnight shirts.

I bought lunch from the Friends House restaurant today, though I don’t know if any of the ingredients there were Fairtrade or not, though I did notice the strikingly designed Fairtrade fortnight shirts worn by the woman who served me. And I’ve had two cups of Fairtrade coffee, one as I write and another while meeting Friends from Farnham Quaker Meeting who were visiting us today.

Day #5 (action): Today I decided to do an action directly related to the 40acts campaign and I found that Traidcraft are campaigning for a supermarkets watchdog to push for a fairer food chain. So, once again, I found myself sending a campaign email to my MP, Joan Ruddock.

The Competition Commission says that the true cost of supermarket price wars is passed to supermarket suppliers overseas as well as in the UK. For millions of people around the world, be they workers, farmers or producers, are working long hours for low pay in unsafe conditions so that the supermarkets’ demands are met. The commission recommended a stronger code of practice for supermarkets and an independent watchdog to enforce the rules.

In 02/2010 the UK government set up a Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which campaigners see as a good step forward. But they feel that all of this is meaningless unless there is a watchdog established to ensure that the rules are followed.

This post is part of a series that Jez Smith is writing on his personal blog about positive actions he is taking during Lent. The 40acts series are suggested by Stewardship and the actions are being suggested by Jez’s friends and colleagues. Read the post at http://jezsmith.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/lent-day-5/ or visit http://www.jezsmith.wordpress.com.

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