Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to attend a conference organised by the London Fairtrade Diocese Campaign and hosted by St Stephen’s church in West London.
It was a full programme with the theme of Transforming Lives through Fairtrade, and featured some high profile speakers from the Fairtrade Movement as well as John Bell, a very well respected member of the Iona Community, who’s written hymns and books, contributes regularly to BBC Radio 4’s Thought For The Day and has an amazing knowledge of international music – as I discovered in the afternoon!
John has been involved in the trade justice movement for longer than I have lived – and was reflecting about the early days when he sold ‘campaign coffee’ – renowned more for the ethos than quality!
He made a very thought provoking speech about Global Trade and Global Warming, where he lamented the way people now only seem to measure the financial impact of items, rather than the wider costs in terms of resource. He feels that we have entered an ‘age of entitlement’ which leads to relentless consumption of resource and questioned if people and the environment are actually able to afford the cheapness that we have come to expect in this modern society where we have instant access to knowledge but not necessarily the wisdom to benefit from it.
He does feel that Fairtrade can help to address some of the negative impacts the developing world that the international markets contribute to, and we heard from Barbara Crowther, Director of Communications and Policy at the Fairtrade Foundation about how the scale of Fairtrade has grown significantly over the 15 years they have existed in the UK, and the challenge they face of balancing the mainstreaming of Fairtrade (Nestle’s KitKat and Starbucks and Cadburys etc) with the importance of supporting pioneering 100% Fairtrade brands like Cafédirect and Divine Chocolate.
After a ‘Working Lunch’ we were energised by Catherine Brogan , a performance poet, who described herself as the ‘next generation of Fairtrade campaigner’ treated us to some lively poetry recitals, rounded off with her latest composition which is the most compelling argument I’ve heard to buy Fairtrade so far – you can read it here , but without a strong Irish accent you’ll struggle to make it rhyme!
The afternoon consisted of hymns from around the world, lead by John Bell, with presentations from leading 100% Fairtrade brands Divine Chocolate and Cafédirect. Sophi Tranchell MBE, Managing Director of Divine Chocolate and Chair of London Fairtrade Campaign presented to us the whirlwind history of Divine Chocolate, and described some of the inspiring impacts they have seen since working with suppliers and shareholders, the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana.
I then had 10 minutes to speak about Cafédirect. We has been in business for almost 20 years, and the story of how we were formed is very really genuine and very refreshing, particularly in these days of corporate takeovers and multinational companies creating their own stories of authenticity. You can read more about it here. Cafédirect’s growth in our early days was driven by real grass roots campaigners, who bought our coffee from church halls, Oxfam stores and community centers, and campaigned to supermarkets to stock us. Our first big listing was in 1994 – and the rest is history….
We’ve got a great video ‘I am Cafédirect’, it gives a real taste of the people who spend their time, effort and expertise growing coffee, tea and cocoa that goes into our hot drinks.
Cafédirect is all about building communities, both in grower co-operatives in Latin America, Africa and Asia, but also back here in the UK – and Fairtrade Fortnight is a great time to get involved. We are currently working hard to create Tea Party Kits that you can all use in your communities over Fairtrade Fortnight, and beyond to get together over a cuppa, bake some cakes using Fairtrade ingredients and have a great time. It’s also an excellent way to demonstrate to the unconverted that some Fairtrade products can be of the highest quality.
We’ll be taking orders for the Tea Party Kits at the beginning of February, but in the meantime you can join our Facebook event and sign up to be a Friend of Cafédirect to find out more…
The perfect tea party?
A BIG thank you to Fran from Kensington WDA for organising the big day, traidcraft and Shared Interest for coming along and everybody else for their energy and enthusiasm.
Alex Georgiou is Communities and Partnerships Manager at Cafédirect. Alex is a guest blogger – all the views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Fairtrade London Campaign.