The Network Project: SECOND CONFERENCE

Fair Trade at the Crossroads:
After Nestlé, Where next?



A conference looking at the future of Fair Trade
from the perspective of Fair Trade organisations
and grassroots campaigners -



Claude Moraes, MEP
Paul Chandler, Traidcraft
Whitni Thomas, Triodos Bank
Meredith Cochrane, Fairtrade Foundation

. . . .a Conference about the challenges that now stand before the Fair Trade movement


After Nestle, Where next?

The Fair Trade movement has always aimed, not merely to succeed on their own part, but to influence others by example.  Traidcraft, which started in 1979, has been an enormous success and not the only one at that.  Fair trade companies like One Village, the One World Shops, The Day Chocolate Company have gone from strength to stength.

A significant breakthrough came when the Co-operative started to stock fair trade lines such as CafeDirect and then moved into own brand fair trade products which now include chocolate, sugar and coffee.  Other supermarkets are following suit, and rather to the surprise of many Nestlé has begun marketing its own brand of fair trade coffee.

This doesn’t just raise a few eyebrows, it raises some hard questions as well particularly for the Fairtrade Foundation who are responsible in this country for the Fair Trade mark.  Traidcraft has raised the point that it is important to make sure Nestlé don’t use this one brand (among many) to spread an aura of respectability over the rest of its operations.


Is Fair Trade in danger of becoming just another brand?

Another success has been in getting the coffee shop chains (of which Starbuck’s is the best known) to have a fair trade coffee on its menu.  Again, that is just one item among many.  And the coffee chains, like Nestlé, are not exactly friendly local grassroots oriented companies, but are multinationals as much implicated in the negative effects of globalisation and cultural homogenisation as any others.

To the extent that many people’s experience of fair trade is of that one item among many options, will people see it as “just another brand”?

So should we welcome these developments?  The Network Project believes there are no easy answers, which is one of the main motivations behind the conference.

How do we scale up Fair Trade?

When I was talking about this conference to a friend, he turned round and said, “Well, really, I think all trade should be fair – all trade should be Fair Trade”. Many of us would agree with him.

At present Fair Trade is a small (if rapidly growing) area of retail sales.  Traidcraft operates through a large network of volunteer sellers (many of us first encountered Fair Trade at a local church or bazaar).  This voluntary contribution – which is huge, as is the number of Fair Traders – is how Traidcraft were able to get going in the first place. But is this model replicable?  Will such a model represent a limit to how much can be done?

In an echo of the Trade Justice movement’s slogan of “scale up for Trade Justice”, how do we “scale up” Fair Trade?  What kinds of institutions will we need, how much will our current organisations have to change, what kind of infrastructure (such as the Fair Trade Labelling Organisation, the umbrella for organisations like the FT Foundation, or IFAT, the International Federation of Alternative Traders) will be needed?

If you think we’ve asked more questions than we’ve answered, you are right. That is why we are holding the conference.  Because to find the answers we need to talk to the people involved.


Why is the Network Project interested?

The Network Project was set up to research and explore recent social innovations, such as social enterprise (of which Fair Trade is an example), corporate social responsibility, socially responsible investment, and the growing response to environmental needs.  Our society has some major problems which we seem currently unable to address let alone solve.  We believe that some of the answers are already out there – people are already doing them. 

We also think that Fair Trade provides an answer to the oft repeated excuse "it's no good, you'll never change anything."  The conventional economic wisdom says that people will not pay more for goods they can easily buy elsewhere. The conventional wisdom is wrong: people do. 

They said Fair Trade would never work, but it did.  We think society has a lot to learn from the Fair Trade movement, both in terms of how they did it and the fact that they succeeded in the teeth of expectations.


Provisional Timetable

11.00 - Registration and coffee, with poster displays

11.30 - First Plenary: "The View from the Gallery"

Claude Moraes, MEP
Paul Chandler, Traidcraft
Whitni Thomas, Triodos Bank
Meredith Cochrane, Fairtrade Foundation

This session will set the scene for our discussions by providing a view from some of the key actors in the Fair Trade field. 

It will be followed by questions for the speakers and a flagging up of the issues for the afternoon session.

1pm - Lunch and network time; poster displays, stalls

Stalls include:
The Co-operative (SE Region)
The Fairtrade Foundation
Shared Interest

Westminster Fair Trade Group are running a campaigning stall for us -
you may bring your own literature to display (subject to space).

2.15 - "Views from the Grassroots":  This will be an open discussion introduced by grassroots campaigners.

We are hoping that this will be a real discussion of the issues people have flagged as important.  We will take discussion one issue at a time and can set up workshops after tea if that is what is needed.

3.30 - Tea

3.45 - Network discussion

This is where we pick up the main themes from the plenary session.  Speak to a project member if there is something you want covered (we’ll be wearing badges).


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