Fairtrade makes waves

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 21st April 2009

A global survey released last week has demonstrated that support for Fairtrade is on the rise.

Ahead of World Fair Trade Day on 9 May, the survey on Fairtrade discovered that shoppers increasingly expect companies to be more accountable and fair in dealing with producers in developing countries. The survey by GlobeScan was commissioned by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) with 14,500 participants from 15 countries. Among those surveyed, almost three quarters of shoppers believe it is not enough for companies to do no harm, but that they should actively support community development in developing countries.

Consumers are calling for a new model in trade in which justice and equity are integral parts of the transaction. ‘Active ethical consumers’ make up more than half the population (55%) in the countries surveyed. These shoppers have higher expectations of companies’ social, economic and environmental responsibilities. Their shopping habits and decisions tend to reward (or punish) companies that meet (or do not meet) their expectations, and they influence others with their opinions.

These attitudes are fuelling support for Fairtrade as more consumers identify with its values. Half of the public (50%) in the fifteen countries surveyed are now familiar with the Fairtrade Certification Mark. Of these people, nine out of ten (91%) trust the label. 64% of all consumers believe that Fairtrade has strict standards, a quality that also closely correlates to consumer trust. Almost three quarters of shoppers (72%) believe independent certification is the best way to verify a product’s ethical claims.

These levels of awareness and trust are consistent with people’s action, as sales indicators show more people are shopping for Fairtrade. Sales were up in 2008 (as compared with 2007) by 24% in Austria, 40% in Denmark, 57% in Finland, 22% in France, 75% in Sweden, 43% in the UK and 10% in the US.

Even where the rate of growth has slowed, sales have not fallen back in any country. And, as solid support continues to come from world shops, faith-based groups and campaign organisations, Fairtrade certified products are now increasingly available in mainstream outlets, major supermarkets and transnational coffee chains.

“With the devastating impacts of the global recession and the credit crunch, producers need Fairtrade now more than ever,” suggests Rob Cameron, CEO of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International – the international umbrella organisation for Fairtrade. “It is very encouraging that consumer commitment to Fairtrade remains strong in these challenging times. We are indebted to the grassroots movement who have built up solid support for Fairtrade. As a result of their efforts, global brands see Fairtrade as an important part of their strategy for the future.”

How do people discover Fairtrade?

32% of people learn about Fairtrade through family, friends and work colleagues, whilst 16% hear about it through education, community and faith groups. Broadcast and news media accounts for a further 33%. People learn about new products and concepts from their own social groups and contacts – a key ripple effect for Fairtrade.