Fairtrade Fortnight

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd March 2016.

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Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I welcome this debate on encouraging fair trade in Scotland and congratulate Fiona McLeod on securing it. I join her in congratulating all the individuals and businesses who have endeavoured to support farmers and producers around the world and who have endorsed the fair trade ethos. That involves, of course, ensuring that the process of producing goods protects workers’ conditions and that the trade of those goods preserves the workers’ environment and supports them financially.

In 2006, the then Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government collaboratively agreed criteria for fair trade nation status. The criteria required that we achieve a range of nationwide targets set by the Scottish Executive. Those included encouraging the take-up of fair trade groups in local authorities and in higher education institutions, achieving fair trade status in our cities and promoting fair trade products as a natural choice for all consumers. They also required a commitment from this Parliament to make annual statements in support of fair trade as a principle, to mark Fairtrade fortnight each year and to encourage faith groups, schools, trade unions and business networks to pledge their support.

The conclusion of the 2012 report that measured progress in Scotland against the criteria states:

“the evidence admitted demonstrates in the opinion of the Forum that Scotland has now met the criteria agreed between the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Executive 2006 and can therefore declare itself a Fair Trade Nation.”

That is certainly something to celebrate and should encourage members here to continue to raise awareness in our constituencies of the availability of fair trade options.

In my local community, we have the excellent Goldenacre fair trade, which runs a regular stall at Inverleith St Serf’s parish church in Ferry Road. The stall has been in the Traidcraft top seller category for three years in a row. It also accepts food donations to be distributed to the Tenants and Residents in Muirhouse group, which runs a community shop and food bank in a neighbouring community. Its purpose in north Edinburgh is to provide high-quality and fresh products to the community, to promote the fair trade ethos and to give crucial support to low-income families in the area. Its tireless work was recognised in 2015 with accolades at the Lord Provost fair trade awards. The annual award, now in its 10th year, recognises the differences that residents, businesses and schools make in promoting fair trade in Edinburgh. The award categories include “fair trade achievement” and “fair trade faith community”.

This debate falls in a week of awareness campaigns that look to highlight the difficulties faced by farmers across the world in an increasingly competitive global market and seek to show how local solutions can provide an answer to global problems. The “sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers!” initiative draws public attention to the many millions of farmers and workers in developing countries who strive to produce our food but live with uncertainty about where their next meal is coming from.

This is a week in which businesses can improve their fair trade credentials by highlighting, through social media, their achievements in promoting products and their commitment to the fair trade ethos in the long term. Campaigners and businesses up and down the country will hold hundreds of breakfast events as part of Fairtrade fortnight 2016, with the #youeattheyeat hashtag used to spread the word on social media.

The Fairtrade Foundation knows that consumers value businesses that have the ethics of fair trade, social responsibility and the wellbeing of farmers and workers as a central feature of their activities. By doing so, they demonstrate that profit can and should work to the benefit of all and that there should be no room for exploitation. According to the Fairtrade Foundation report of 2013, half the world’s hungry people—nearly 400 million—are estimated to live on small farms. Without the protection of fair pay and conditions, those farmers struggle to eat.

We can play a small part in changing their circumstances simply by making a different consumer choice. If we have the means to, we should choose fair trade and use the pound in our pockets to improve the wellbeing of millions throughout the world.