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A Make Or Break Year for Fairtrade?

Delighted to welcome Holly Lynch MP as our first guest blogger of 2017. Holly is the MP for Halifax and has worked with fairandfunky on numerous occasions, bringing Fairtrade into the heart of her community in Halifax and in Parliament. 


Here Holly considers the challenges and opportunities for Fairtrade in, what she describes as, a make or break year:


Fairtrade APPG Launch 2016

Fairtrade APPG Launch 2016

“2016 has been another good year for Fairtrade. I have had the privilege of co-chairing the new All Party Parliamentary Group in Westminster putting Fairtrade on the political agenda, whilst a dedicated network of passionate and incredibly effective grassroots campaigners have put even more Fairtrade towns and villages on the map, right across the country.


Yet as we look ahead to 2017, I feel that Fairtrade is at a crossroads. A tumultuous 2016 has opened up opportunities for us to seize, yet we also face new barriers borne out of the year’s ‘turbulence’. The very notion of Fairtrade will need to be reasserted in a post-Brexit world where populism and easy answers, at least for the foreseeable future, stand to dominate the agenda.


I think it’s fair to say that there were some raised eyebrows right across the green benches in Westminster when prominent ‘Leave’ campaigner and foreign aid sceptic Priti Patel MP was awarded the top job at the Department for International Development back in July.


Whilst Ms Patel’s approach to international development is very different to mine, her focus on trade as a means of alleviating poverty in a long term and sustainable way presents an opportunity for Fairtrade. In an interview with the BBC, Ms Patel said;


“Our focus is poverty reduction – but that doesn’t mean we should exclude the whole area of trade and trade opportunities. British soft power is exactly where DFID and our aid and other relationships around the world, come together to deliver in our national interest and deliver for Britain when it comes to free trade agreements but also life post-Brexit.”


If she is serious about this approach – then Fairtrade is her answer.


So we must be ready to offer new and innovative ways of extending Fairtrade principles beyond their traditional roots, in order to really instil our principles across different industries; delivering for the greatest number of people.


The success of Fairtrade Gold in 2016 has demonstrated what can be achieved when we take the Faitrade framework and apply it to an industry like mining which has historically been one of the most dangerous and exploitative.


Although mining is an industry which is millennia old it is still central to our modern consumer economy. Indeed most of our electrical devices such as phones and tablets include more than 35 different minerals. Yet many consumers remain unaware that in terms of pay and conditions this industry can still appear like it has millennia to go.


The Fairtrade Foundation estimates that 100 million people worldwide rely on small-scale mining for their livelihoods and to support their families and communities, often working long days and in difficult and sometimes hazardous conditions.


Just imagine the positive impact, the lives that would benefit from Fairtrade, if our principles were applied more universally to mining or even quarrying.


Holly Lynch at Marshall's

Holly Lynch at Marshall’s

Quarrying giants Marshall’s, who are based in Halifax, have already developed their own Fair Stone mark for ethically sourced garden paving. This shows that big companies are recognising that even in this difficult economic climate there is both consumer appetite for ethically sourced goods, as well as an expectation that they themselves play their part as responsible businesses.


We may look at the world post-Brexit, and with the incoming President Trump, and wonder if Fairtrade will survive the coming months. However as many of the rules around trade are redrawn, and we begin a national conversation about the UK’s trade deals, now is the time to make Fairtrade more relevant than ever. To achieve this we may need to be bolder, more innovative and think bigger than ever before in order to meet the challenges ahead.”


This blog was written by Holly Lynch MP exclusively for fairandfunky.

January 5th 2017

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