Ever wondered who supports Fairtrade and why?
Like all eco-ethical brands, the majority of our customers are young women, but there are so many more people who care about shopping Fairtrade. So, we thought we’d spotlight a few different voices and ask them why they give a damn about Fairtrade.
Have a read and take note: you might pick up some tips that could help you convert the rellies at your next family barbecue.
First up, Reverend John Martin – a retired Uniting Church Minister in his mid-70s. Here’s why he chooses to shop Fairtrade.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a Uniting Church Minister and I had congregations in New South Wales, and also spent a few years in the United Kingdom. For the last nine years before I retired, I was a chaplain in aged care facilities in Western-Sydney and the Blue Mountains. I did all that for 39 years.
Now that I’m retired, I volunteer as a Fairtrade Ambassador. My main goal is to get more churches to become Fairtrade faith groups. So, I travel around to churches and talk to people about Fairtrade products, why they matter, and encourage them to adopt Fair Trade shopping as part of their lifestyle.
Why do you care about Fairtrade?
There are many ways of caring for people. Donating money, volunteering time, signing petitions, writing to politicians, and going to demonstrations. These are all ways we can advocate for better treatment of people around the world.
But the reason I committed to Fair Trade as a means of addressing injustices is because Fair Trade is not asking me to do anything differently from what I do now.
Like everyone, I shop for food, clothes, footwear, gifts for people, electrical goods, household items and so on. As I shop, I want to imagine the people behind the products. Those unseen farmers, artisans, factory works whose labour brings me the products I take for granted.
Fair Trade is asking: how were those people treated? Was there forced or slave labour, were children exploited, were wages and conditions fair? Basically, Fairtrade lets you shop in a way that cares about other people.
When did you first discover Fairtrade products?
In the mid 1980s when I lived in the UK, my late-wife, Noelene, became a volunteer Traidcraft representative. She sold Fair Trade products in North Shropshire and beyond – things like loose-leaf tea that came in little woven bags. So, we became familiar with the idea of fair trade and when we later returned to Australia in 1988, it wasn’t really a concept here yet. But as soon as Fairtrade came to the southern hemisphere, my wife was once again very involved with that.
So, when I retired, I became a volunteer ambassador for Fairtrade too.
What sort of Fairtade products do you buy?
Well, I had my Fairtrade shoes on yesterday and I bought a pair of Fairtrade thongs recently which I’ll wear when I get back home to Queensland. I also wear the polo shirts, I have a hoodie and I wish there was a business shirt I could buy too. I find generally there’s not as much Fairtrade clothing for men as there is women.
And then I get tea and coffee and chocolate and things like that.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to getting people to shop Fairtrade?
People are funny. You can explain the idea of fair trade to some people and they instantly get it and agree that yes, that’s a very good way to help people in other countries get a fair wage and have good working conditions.
For other people, they might say: yes, that’s good, but I donate money to X charity instead. And then there are people who get stuck in their way and say, “Well, I’ve always bought this brand of tea or underpants, so I don’t want to change.”
But overall, I think the biggest barrier is that people can’t comprehend what they can’t see.
Now, I’ve never visited the countries that are most commonly associated with slave labour, but I don’t need to go there to believe that it happens. I’m sure if I did visit and see the conditions some people work in, my sensitives would be sharpened to the issue, but I already feel empathy to those people. Some people just can’t imagine that exploitation happens or can very easily separate their actions from the lives of people who are further down the supply chain.
I think the other barrier is the media and advertising. There are so many brands saying, “oh, we’re ethical too” when it’s simply not true. Like a particular chocolate company that says it is ethically produced but they are self-accredit, so they can basicallly say anything they like. I think that kind of behaviour creates a barrier to change, because customers think they’re doing the right thing but they don’t know all the facts.
Why should people shop Fairtrade?
Because it’s such an easy way to help people. You can make a difference one purchase at a time, and it’s the sort of stuff that you would be buying already.
What’s the best Fairtrade gift to give someone?
A gift voucher to a Fairtrade brand like Etiko.