Direct sourcing and the fair trade concept
There is often a lot of questions raised around fair trade practice. Where the fair trade money goes and who the people are that actually benefit when we purchase fair trade products?
These are all relevant questions.
In the beginning, we too asked the same questions, to be honest, with a little bit of a cynical leaning towards the fair trade concept. We found it hard to trust organisations and companies when we’d hear the bad stories of greenwashing or false claims of effective and meaningful impact just to try and market an ethical business model.
What we’ve learnt working with tea and spices over the last 10+ years is that there isn’t a perfect solution to the “fair trade” concept. Its not only black and white but a vast area of grey between the two. Each developing country has a range of unique situations and challenges as does each commodity that is sold to developed countries. What we’ve noticed from visiting growing communities, is that it isn’t necessarily just the money that makes a difference, it’s the empowerment. Empowerment for communities to have a choice to make decisions for themselves and their families as well as the wider community.
We are also very aware that we offer such a very small contribution to a very big issue surrounding social justice. After all, we are a small business ourselves. But we wholeheartedly believe it’s a combination of the small things put together that can make a big difference. We have seen first hand the schools, community halls and delivery trucks that were built and acquired from fair trade contributions. These contributions have assisted the community to educate their children, some of whom may not have had the opportunity before hand. It has allowed them to hire out the hall and truck for a profit, and then put the profits back into the local community. From what we’ve seen and the people we’ve spoken to, these fair trade contributions have had a positive impact. Of course there are challenges and areas for improvement, but looking at the fair trade concept as a whole, we believe it’s a concept that works and is worth supporting.
Then there is the quality argument which we believe for tea and spices is often not relevant. We have found some of the best tasting products from organic and fair trade plantations. To say the reason companies aren’t using fairly traded products due to poor quality, is often a convenient disguise for, “we can’t get the products cheap enough to make the biggest margin possible for the shareholders”
We are not a big business, we are not a multinational organisation that is responsible for quarterly reports to our shareholders. We are a family run, small business that believes, with your support, we can make a positive impact.
And this is why we choose to fairly source the majority of our ingredients directly from the growing communities and cooperatives who produce them. We pay fair trade premiums for the ingredients purchased from fair trade farms and continually strive to learn more about the challenges that the producers face in their local regions. It seems wrong to us that we could truly love these products and not be aware of where they are coming from, who the people are who grow them and inadvertently what impact our business has on the local environment.