Thursday, 6 March 2008

Is Chippenham Really a Fairtrade Town?

Fairtrade goodies on Fairtrade cotton shopping bag - March 2008

I was surprised by the claim by Laurie Bell - Chippenham's Town Clerk, that Chippenham has Fairtrade Town status when researching my recent article on banning plastic bags. As it's Fairtrade Fortnight at the moment, I decided to investigate this claim a little further.

So, what's Fairtrade?
According to the Faitrade Foundation's website it's:
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.

The FAIRTRADE Mark is an independent consumer label which appears on UK products as a guarantee that they have been certified against internationally agreed Fairtrade standards. It shares internationally recognised Fairtrade standards with initiatives in 20 other countries, working together globally with producer networks as Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO). The Mark indicates that the product has been certified to give a better deal to the producers involved – it does not act as an endorsement of an entire company’s business practices.

Fairtrade standards comprise both minimum social, economic and environmental requirements, which producers must meet to be certified, plus progress requirements that encourage continuous improvement to develop farmers’ organisations or the situation of estate workers.

So as you can see I currently have 4 products with the Fairtrade Mark in my kitchen - only 2,996 more to go!

OK, what's Fairtrade Fortnight?
It's an annual event, where the Fairtrade Foundation, local groups and other organisations promoting Fairtrade (such as the Church and various charities) ramp up their efforts to put Fairtrade firmly in the focus of the general public. As a result, there's all sorts of events going on UK wide. A diary of events can be found here. However, it's not just about this time of the year, so the Fairtrade Foundation has set up a number of other initiatives, including Fairtrade Town Status.

Sounds good - what does a town need to do to get this status?
They have to meet 5 goals:
  1. The local council must pass a resolution supporting Fairtrade, and serve Fairtrade coffee and tea at its meetings and in offices and canteens. From my research it would appear that the intention to apply for Fairtrade Town status was discussed only last October at the District Council and November by the Town Council.
  2. A range of Fairtrade products must be readily available in the area’s shops and served in local caf├ęs and catering establishments. Yes, this is already being done and the choice and spread throughout the town has increased noticeably in the last year.
  3. Fairtrade products must be used by a number of local work places educational establishments, faith communities and other community organisations. Yes at the faith community level, not sure about the others.
  4. Attract media coverage and organise events to gain popular support for the campaign. I've not seen any evidence of this. Also, I've found just 3 Fairtrade Fortnight events for Chippenham!
  5. A local Fairtrade steering group must meet regularly to ensure continued commitment to Fairtrade Town status. The composition of your steering group should be representative of your community overall. I don't know if it's in place formally, but there's evidence of local Church and Wildlife Trust initiatives which may go some way to meet this.

    So is Chippenham a Fairtrade Town? I believe not yet officially, but hopefully this time next year, I'll be able to report more positively - both on my town and my shopping habits.

10 comments:

  1. I try to buy Fairtrade whenever possible.I hope it helps....we have no industry in the community where I live but the surrounding communities seem to have some Fairtrade. We all need to get on board for this!

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  2. This is interesting - there are no such initiatives here. Large supermarkets rule here.

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  3. Like you I've only a handful of Fairtrade items. I feel it should be a lot more if there's 3,000!
    Interesting entry VP, thanks!

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  4. I applaud you, VP!

    I don't think Canada (the country) is trying as hard as the UK to be green. :-( But I think a few individuals here are. A few.

    Consumerism is part of the Canadian culture, I'm afraid. The more the better and the cheaper the better.

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  5. I like to buy Fairtrade when I can. Glad to hear Chippenham is on the way to being a Fairtrade town.

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  6. Most interesting VP. I had not realised what our towns and cities have to do to achieve Fairtrade status. After reading this I want to find out more about where my town is up to with this. As for me I am ashamed to say that just at the moment the only Fairtrade item in my kitchen is bananas. Food for thought !

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  7. Neva - glad to hear Fairtrade's available in your area!

    Kate and Dirty Knees - I'm surprised that Canada's not got something similar.

    Flighty - I got quite embarassed when I found out there's 3,000 and I've just got 4. I must try harder!

    Starnitesky - good for you!

    Anna - I learnt a lot just by writing this Posting. I do hope there's something going on in your area - the links I've given might be able to help there.

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  8. Maybe the town is further on than is apparent - where I work at an IT company on the edge of Chippenham we now have only fairtrade sugar (changing the coffee and tea looks like it'll take longer, but we're getting there); fairtrade coffee is available (but not necessarily exclusively) in most if not all the coffee shops in town; and there is widespread (but perhaps quiet) community support.

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  9. Jon - good point. However, I was concerned that the council is saying they've got the Fairtrade award when it looks like they're in the process of doing so. The kind of groundswell opinion and availability is needed in order for Chippenham to get the award.

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  10. Oh and Jon - thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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