• Martyn Smith

Back to school: An assignment on Fairtrade

Last week, I received an email request to help with a high school assignment on Fairtrade in Food and Hospitality.

I've included Shanise' questions and my responses below. I'm not sure of her age - I hope I haven't given her the scholastic equivalent of concrete boots!

Does your business use “Fairtrade” ingredients on the menu? Why or why not?

We do not supply Fairtrade labelled products in our business as we have not obtained the appropriate registration to pass the certification on. We purchased an existing business and most of the products were not Fairtrade.

We are investigating gaining Fairtrade certification and are in the process of reviewing current products and possible Fairtrade substitutes.

Fairtrade certification may not be the most effective ethical model in situations where infrastructure is better developed, the political situation is relatively stable and/or environmental issues are more critical than social ones.

I don’t expect us to become 100% Fairtrade certified in the future. By using supplier networks, alongside of relevant certifications, I expect that we will gain confidence that relevant products are grown in environments that support positive social and environmental outcomes.

What are the benefits for businesses using Fairtrade?

Businesses may gain a positive reputation from using Fairtrade products. This may translate into increased sales.

Some business owners are looking for ways to ‘give back’ and to operate in sustainable ways. Fairtrade may offer them an opportunity for this.

What are the limitations businesses may experience when using Fairtrade ingredients?

  1. Reliability and quality of supply may be an issue for Fairtrade ingredients where there are a limited number of suppliers.

  2. Some Australian customers do not understand the Fairtrade system. For example, they think that Fairtrade is some kind of flavour and they may not think they like that flavour.

  3. In the coffee industry, some roasters and customers are suspicious of the Fairtrade organisation and question its effectiveness. They do not see Fairtrade as a positive certification and some even prefer non-Fairtrade products.

  4. Some coffee roasters believe they achieve better outcomes for foreign growers, and Australian customers, by travelling overseas and dealing directly with the farmers.

  5. Fairtrade products may be a higher price than non-Fairtrade products. The price premium may not be related directly to Fairtrade costs and may require product prices that are beyond what customers are prepared to pay.

Should the Food and Hospitality industry embrace using Fairtrade ingredients? Why or why not?

I wouldn’t use the word ‘should’.

Food products may come from developing countries, this is certainly true of green coffee beans. Fairtrade, and other models, gives us an opportunity to honour the work of people living in challenging foreign settings. We, in the developed world, can provide a safety net and facilitate environmental and economic sustainability by making ethical purchases.

In my opinion, this is an exciting aspect of living in the time and place that we do. As a Christian person, I see it as part of loving people and honouring God and his creation.

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