Traidcraft – Fighting poverty through trade
It’s not often on an autumn Saturday morning you see the Shadow Minister of State for Employment, the wife of an Archbishop and the CEO of the World Wildlife Fund in a drafty warehouse in Gateshead. But then, the AGM of Traidcraft PLC, is no ordinary event.
Traidcraft is one of the pioneers of the fair trade movement in the UK. It began trading in 1979 importing fair trade handicrafts from India and Bangladesh out of a building in Carliol Square in Newcastle. To fund its growth in the 80s it became an unlisted UK PLC and sold shares to its supporters. After several rounds of funding, there are now 5,500 people who each own a small portion of Traidcraft. The AGM is the chance for those shareholders to get together and reflect on what the company has achieved in the last year and hear about the plans for the next.
Traidcraft was found by a group of Christians who had gone to Durham University and grew out of a passionate desire to give some practical expression to the principles of justice and love in international trade. There is still a Christian basis to the organisation today and the AGM begins with a short act of Christian worship including a powerful reflection on some coffee beans.
This year Traidcraft celebrated some great new innovations. The most significant of which was the launch of the clean and fair range of cleaning products. Creating a fair trade and sustainable palm oil has been a major move for Traidcraft over the last few years. Palm oil is well known for the negative environmental impact it has on the rain forest in Malaysia and Indonesia. (You can read about the Greenpeace campaign to stop rainforest destruction and protect orang-utans here). So Traidcraft is working with palm oil growers in Ghana on a long term programme to provide fair trade palm oil while protecting the local eco-system at the same time. Traidcraft is pioneering a new way of working in a market that produces 60million tonnes of palm oil every year.
Leveraging a small action to drive a major change is at the heart of Traidcraft’s mission. While it is keen for you to buy and support its products, it has a mission to change the face of world trade. So often you will find it campaigning on much bigger issues than just the products it sells. It’s latest campaign is the Justice Campaign that seeks to make UK companies for more accountable for the actions they take in developing countries.
Perhaps the most inspiring part of the day was listening to Tomy Mathew from Fair Trade Alliance Kerala. An amazing organisation that brings together many thousands of small holder farmers in the South West India, to enable their products to be sold on fair trade terms. He spoke at length and with great passion about the benefits of fair trade and how it is now time to go even further. He challenged us to look at “fair trade plus three” – the “plus three” referring to supporting biodiversity, food security and gender justice – all big issues in India at this time.
Buying fair trade products is about building a relationship with people many thousands of miles away. A relationship of justice and fairness. It’s the pioneering organisations like Traidcraft that have made that possible in the past and it will be those organisations who continue to break new ground in the future.
And the Shadow Minister, Archbishop’s wife and WWF CEO? They are all long term supporters, trustees or directors of this influential organisation. Are you?
Ethical Superstore sells a wide range of Traidcraft items including the new Clean and Fair cleaning and personal hygiene range.
Andy Redfern is one of the founders of Ethical Superstore and a former International Director of Traidcraft. He now runs a web development agency called Commvia seeking to get more small businesses selling effectively on line.