I most certainly do agree with my hon. Friend. Traidcraft and the Fairtrade Foundation have played a huge part in ensuring that producers are accountable and that those principles are applied fairly.
My mother loved to look at the Traidcraft catalogue, find out what was going on from the Traidcraft bulletins and buy products—mostly chocolate, it should be said—from the back of her church. Churches have played a hugely important part in selling Traidcraft goods. She would get me to buy products either from the Traidcraft shop in Team Valley or on the internet.
Apart from my personal reasons for feeling sad at the news of possible closure and the loss of 60 jobs from our local economy in Gateshead, there are much more serious reasons why so many people were sad to hear of Traidcraft’s difficulties. As the company has said, it was
“overwhelmed by the outpouring of public concern and offers of support which demonstrates that the mission of Traidcraft still matters to many, many people”.
That is absolutely right. Next year marks the 40th anniversary of Traidcraft plc. Established as a Fairtrade enterprise, it initially provided a market for handcrafted items from Bangladesh at a time of great political turmoil there. Handicrafts, because they required minimal capital outlay for women in affected communities and could be produced alongside farming activities, provide an additional income source while preserving food security. Those values of supporting women, developing resilience and environmental concern have been recurring themes for Traidcraft over the years.
From its creation in 1979, the company developed into a public limited company with 4,500 individual shareholders and shares traded on the ethical stock exchange. It buys groceries and craft items from more than 70 producer groups in around 30 countries. Goods are sold through community resellers, online and through specialist fair trade shops. Traidcraft has pioneered fair trade products such as wine, charcoal and rubber gloves, alongside more familiar products such as tea, coffee, chocolate and biscuits. It has reached into thousands of homes—including my mum’s—and communities through its community sales force. What is more, it has had a real impact on the lives of countless producers and their families, delivering real social change.
Traidcraft was at the forefront of the Fairtrade movement and was a founder member of the Fairtrade Foundation along with Oxfam, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Christian Aid, the Women’s Institute and the World Development Movement. The Fairtrade movement developed the Fairtrade certification system, which enabled those same fair trade principles to be applied by mainstream businesses. That was a vital tool for those businesses wanting to establish fairer and more just trading relationships and provided an independent guarantee for consumers.