Q&A with Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation

(32 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 01-Feb-10 15:46:18

It's Fairtrade fortnight from 22 Feb to 7 Mar, and to highlight it we've got a Q&A with Harriet Lamb, exec director of the Fairtrade Foundation, sponsored by Tate & Lyle, who have announced their commitment to switch to 100% Fairtrade certification during Fairtrade Fortnight 2008.

Harriet, dubbed "eco queen" by Cosmopolitan mag, began her Fairtrade 'journey' when she landed the job of banana coordinator at the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation in Bonn in 1997 and helped to arrange the first shipment of Fairtrade bananas to Britain.

Now, she heads up a 79-strong team at the Fairtrade Foundation, which has certified more than 3,000 products, including coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, bananas, grapes, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, lemons, coconuts, honey, jams, rice, herbs and spices, wine, flowers, clothing and even footballs.

So if you'd like to know more about why you should buy Fairtrade, who it supports, how you can support Fairtrade fortnight, or how to carry off the job title 'banana coordinator', please post your questions here and Harriet will come back with answers on 15 February.

Thank you

FromGirders Tue 02-Feb-10 12:04:45

Hello Harriet,
I think Faritrade is a great system, and I buy Fairtrade wherrever I can, even if it caosts a little more.
But . .
Please tell me how KitKats, made by NESTLE can deserve a fairtrade award / symbol.
Thank you.

madhairday Tue 02-Feb-10 13:51:21

Harriet

Do you have plans to make fairtrade clothing more widely available? A few high street stores have their token fairtrade ranges consisting of a few t-shirts in unexciting colours; in the main good fairtrade clothing can only be purchased online and at a pretty high cost. How can we bring it more widely to the high street and more importantly how can we persuade stores to rise above exploitation and embrace fairtrade ethics?
Thankyou.

PlummyDummyMummy Tue 02-Feb-10 16:54:08

Hi Harriet

I always buy fairtrade when choosing bananas, coffee and sugar smile. However I jib at the rather large premium that is charged for some fairtrade goods shock. Paying the farmers a fair price means that we will pay a premium for the result, I get it. But I object to some of that premium enriching the importer at the expense of the farmer - and me!hmm Is there a calculation that represents a fair price premium versus a rip-off for fairtrade goods?

tatt Tue 02-Feb-10 20:57:53

Chocolate was the first fair trade product I saw on sale. It put me off fair trade as it "may contain nut traces". Not much use to a family with a child with anaphylactic reactions to nuts and not very ethical to exclude us.

Of the 3000 products you say you've certified I reckon to have seen no more than 10 on sale.

shallishanti Tue 02-Feb-10 21:28:16

I get that Nestle have fulfilled the conditions and can't be denied the FT mark for the 4 finger Kit Kat, but FT foundation doesn't have to give then free publicity- they are still subject to boycott because of their formula marketing. As someone who tries to promote FT it's hard to constantly be having conversations about 'well, yes they are FT but even so, there are a whole load of other issues to consider...'

abride Thu 04-Feb-10 15:49:19

How is Fairtrade encouraging individual farmers and manufacturers to become larger organisations in their own right, rather than through cooperatives?

tinierclanger Sat 06-Feb-10 10:59:26

Hi Harriet. I buy Fairtrade where possible and am about to start promoting Fairtrade fortnight at work. I'd really like it if you could point me in the direction of some concrete examples of Fairtrade making a real impact on local economies - so above and beyond just improving things for a small number of individuals. I'd like to be able to give more than just a general woolly liberal 'it's a good thing to do' response to people when they question me about it.

nighbynight Sat 06-Feb-10 20:02:42

We have got fresh roses in our local supermarket that are marked Fairtrade from Kenya. But aren't they just the products of big, commercial farms owned by former settlers? There's no guarantee that Kenyans working to harvest them, for example, are paid a fair wage.

If I am allowed another question...
I know quite a lot of people from the third world, and none of them have ever heard of Fairtrade. Can you comment on this please?

My own feeling is that Fairtrade is a great movement, but I simply dont know enough about how it works, and it seems very open to exploitation by big business, eg being Fairtrade when the market has pushed prices high.

nighbynight Sat 06-Feb-10 20:06:22

To crystallise some more thoughts about Fairtrade...isn't it just used by the supermarkets to salve our middle class consciences, so that we will buy 95% mass produced, GM, weedkiller soaked, exploitative crap, and 5% organic or Fairtrade goods, and we will feel good about that. So from the supermarkets point of view, Fairtrade is a niche that allows them to carry on peddling the crap without us rebelling.
Can you comment on this please?

sarah293 Sun 07-Feb-10 14:10:42

why does Fred Pearce critises FT in his book saying that farmers still aren't being paid a decent % for their crops. A cup of coffee in a coffee shop costs more than they earn in a week growing beans.
Can cotton ever really be fair trade given is turns countryside into deserts as its such a thirsty crop?

CantSupinate Sun 07-Feb-10 18:01:47

Doesn't Fred Pearce conclude that ulitmately FT is better than not FT, though?

Following on what Riven & MadHairDay said, it would be nice if FT movement expanded its horizons to think about encouraging consumers to buy stuff that is more likely to fulfill the fairtrade ideals. Thus wouldn't it be better (environmentally, and for producers) if we could easily buy clothes made of hemp/bamboo/linen, rather than the ubiquitous polyester or cotton? The same principle probably applies to food, some of our favourite foods may be the hardest to produce to a FT standard; at the very least, wouldn't it ideal if consumers were more informed about the impacts of our choices?

Or is that pie-in-the-sky thinking because FT movement has enough on its plate already and changing consumer preferences is jolly hard work -- comments?

Edinacheery Sun 07-Feb-10 23:43:09

Harriet, how do you feel about companies which invest in tokenism fairtrade in order to make themselves more acceptable to the conscience-driven consumer?

How has Tate & Lyle dealt with the irony of its historic links with the slave trade when pursuing fairtrade status?

CantSupinate Mon 08-Feb-10 11:51:51

Here we are telling you what FT could do better/different... what do YOU see as main short-term goals for the FT movement?

rabbit68 Mon 08-Feb-10 12:44:50

Hi Harriet
We met you in Keswick a couple of weeks ago at the School Convention and really enjoyed the day - very inspirational; I now have all my Beaver Scouts looking for Fairtrade products when they are shopping and our school children have set up their steering group.
I am already swapping lots of products and once you start looking there are so many more than you'd think and suprising ones too; Bourneville Cocao and Tate & Lyle sugar were today's discoveries.smile Also good to note that some FT products are cheaper than others...checkout sugar in Tesco ladies and spot the Fairtrade bargain.

Thank you Harriet.

from Sam, (hoping for Fairtrade Chocs, flowers and wine on Valentine's day!)wink

EmmaBA Tue 09-Feb-10 15:51:03

Could you please explain to us the process by which a product gets its Fair-trade status? Presumably if all the qualifying boxes are ticked, you award Fair-trade status regardless of other aspects of the company's operations?

hunkermunker Sat 13-Feb-10 15:42:10

Do you boycott Nestle, Harriet?

If not, why not?

Thank you

GreenMonkies Sun 14-Feb-10 09:44:59

Do you realise just how much credibility the Fair Trade mark has lost since it was granted to Nestle for it's Partners coffee and now Kitkat?

Their record of child labour (chocolate production), environmental destruction (spring water harvesting) and dubious Union activity as well as their relentless and agressive infringement of international laws and codes regarding infant formula makes them totally unsuitable for inclusion in any Fair Trade projects.

And isn't having one or two products "Fair Trade" basically an admission that all the other products in a companies range are ripping off producers?

Surely all companies should pay the Fair Trade price to producers?? hmm

ppeatfruit Sun 14-Feb-10 17:19:17

I agree with greenmonkies and the question i've got is that I always buy organic or unsprayed products where poss. Is fairtrade always organic or changeoover? If not why not? Cos' the conditions MUST be better for the workers.

GreenMonkies Sun 14-Feb-10 19:25:52

For those who like proper coffee, Has Bean sell coffee bought direct from the growers, and pay above Fair Trade prices.

And here's another one for Harriet Lamb, do you look after the interests of British farmers and producers as well, or just Third World ones? I ask this as British farming is being squeezed into oblivion by un-profitable prices etc. Just a thought....

SkaterGrrrrl Sun 14-Feb-10 20:08:56

Ooooh, good question from Edinacheery about greenwashing. Sometimes companies meet the letter of the law but not the spirit in order to scrape FT (or organic) status.

This is confusing for consumers.

FromGirders Sun 14-Feb-10 20:35:08

GreenMonkies, I'm pretty certain UK farmers can't apply for Fairtrade status, it's just for 3rd world countries. IME that is.

GreenMonkies Sun 14-Feb-10 20:55:08

FromGirders I suspect this is the case, yes, but I don't get why. After all, surely all producers/farmers deserve to be paid enough for their produce to be able to make enough to live on (and I don't mean just scrape by on the breadline) regardless of where they are in the world? British farmers are going out of business at a frightening rate, and no-one seems to be looking out for them.

ppeatfruit Mon 15-Feb-10 08:06:04

Green monkies Yeah Yeah I so agree!!

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 16-Feb-10 10:24:10

Helen, this is one of my loose ends. Jennifer should have the PR contact, can we find out when the answers are coming and maybe post to let members know?
thx

CMOTdibbler Tue 16-Feb-10 10:39:51

Geraldine, not sure you meant to post this here ?

I did think of a question though - how do you feel about Nestle promoting their Fair Trade KitKat, when it constitutes such a tiny amount of the cocoa they buy (this being the only FT ingredient in it), and their advertising spend to promote this is a couple of orders of magnitude greater than the extra cost of the fairtrade ?

Luckynine Sun 21-Feb-10 12:49:48

Hi Does anyone know whether Harriet answered the questions on the 15th? - I can't find it on the site. I am seeing more and more fairtrade kit kat banner ads , and don't know what to make of it.

PlummyDummyMummy Tue 23-Feb-10 21:41:14

Hello, did I miss something? What's become of the answers from Harriet?

hunkermunker Fri 26-Feb-10 19:57:17

Did Harriet decide not to answer things?

hunkermunker Tue 02-Mar-10 21:49:55

Guess not!

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 03-Mar-10 13:14:39

Aaagh, Harriet did send her answers and entirely our fault for not adding the link to them on this thread.

Harriet's answers are here and apologies to her for the delay getting this link up blush and thanks for her answers.

Thanks to everybody who posted questions, too

And still on the Fairtrade theme, if you missed Douglas Alexander's webchat it's here.

hunkermunker Fri 05-Mar-10 16:16:16

Thank you, Geraldine.

Bit sad to see her responses re Nestle - didn't really answer the questions:

"Nestle

Letter QFromGirders: I think Faritrade is a great system, and I buy Fairtrade wherever I can, even if it costs a little more. But please tell me how KitKats, made by Nestle can deserve a Fairtrade award / symbol.

Letter Qshallishanti: I get that Nestle have fulfilled the conditions and can't be denied the FT mark for the four-finger Kit Kat, but the Fairtrade Foundation doesn't have to give then free publicity- they are still subject to boycott because of their formula marketing. As someone who tries to promote FT it's hard to constantly be having conversations about 'well, yes they are FT but even so, there are a load of other issues to consider...'

Letter Qhunkermunker: Do you boycott Nestle, Harriet? If not, why not?

Letter QGreenMonkies: Do you realise just how much credibility the Fair Trade mark has lost since it was granted to Nestle for it's Partners coffee and now Kitkat? Their record of child labour (chocolate production), environmental destruction (spring water harvesting) and dubious Union activity as well as their relentless and agressive infringement of international laws and codes regarding infant formula makes them totally unsuitable for inclusion in any Fair Trade projects.

And isn't having one or two products "Fairtrade" basically an admission that all the other products in a companies range are ripping off producers?

Letter AHarrietLamb: I do get how some people feel about this one. But do you know that on the other hand, people are buying one billion Kit-Kats every year! That's a lot of people - and a lot of cocoa and sugar. And you can be sure those farmers need Fairtrade. Among the cocoa farmers in one cooperative selling to Kit Kat, a shocking 95% of their members are illiterate. They want their kids to learn to read and write, but Cote d'Ivoire is a troubled country, coming out of a conflict with few resources and a 50 per cent of people living on less than $2 a day. So it is vital that they earn more for their cocao. With their first Fairtrade premiums, Kavokiva paid for adult education classes, for school building, they built a health centre and an ambulance and reckon to have saved thirty lives last year. But until now, they were only selling small volumes of their cocoa on Fairtrade terms and they badly needed more sales. That is what Kit Kat brings them.

For campaigners and the public here, i think it is a recognition by the company that people care about these issues. They have listened to the public asking for Fairtrade and responded. Not with a small side-line or token gesture. But with their crown-jewels - their biggest bar, Kit Kat. That's is a very serious engagement with Fairtrade. It sends a strong signal to the rest of the cocoa industry. And it will deliver major benefits back to farmers and workers."

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