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 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 postyourquestionshere and Harriet will come back with answers on 15February.
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 ?
Bit sad to see her responses re Nestle - didn't really answer the questions:
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."