FREE Summer / Fall 2019
C A N A DAâ€™ S V O I C E F O R S O C I A L S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y
Shifting Growing Regions Ethical Gold New Paths to Just Trade in the Caribbean
The Tipping Point Publisher | Sean McHugh Managing Editor | Erik Johnson Proofreader | Bryce Tarling Contributors | Gavin Fridell, Zack Gross, Kimberly Leung, Emanuel Lukawiecki, Naomi Zurevinski
Cover Image | A frog on a banana leaf at the El Guabo co-operative in Ecuador, whose farmers have been growing organic Fairtrade bananas since the late 1990s.
Photo by Éric St-Pierre. St-Pierre’s image appears in his book Fair Trade: A human journey (Goose Lane Editions, 2012)
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Canadian Fair Trade Network Réseau canadien du commerce équitable
The Canadian Fair Trade Network (CFTN) is a non-profit organization that works with civil society and industry stakeholders to advance awareness and support for fair trade in Canada. It supports collaboration and best practices within the fair trade movement to increase Canadian commitments to international social responsibility. Fair Trade Magazine is published by the Canadian Fair Trade Network. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without publisher’s written permission. Not responsible for unsolicited editorial material. The information provided in this magazine is for educational and informational purposes only. Fair Trade Magazine makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information it provides but cannot be held responsible for any consequences arising from errors or omissions.
fter years of pushing for better business practices, improved sourcing, and transparency in supply chains, the fair trade movement is nearing a tipping point—the moment when a series of minor changes becomes significant enough to create wider, lasting change. Seemingly small actions taken by individuals, businesses, organizations, schools, and more have fuelled a shift in consumer behaviour. While we have a long way to go, and there are many reasons to be cynical, change is upon us. Consider the following: Last fall, 400 global organizations signed the International Fair Trade Charter. Endorsed by farmer co-operatives, social enterprises, and global solidarity organizations, the charter aligns the values of diverse groups, all aiming to establish ethical and sustainable trading practices so everyone can earn a decent livelihood. Instead of relying on voluntary schemes and corporate social responsibility, governments are demanding transparency and accountability from businesses. To address labour injustices in supply chains, Australia, France, the Netherlands, and the UK have established modern slavery legislation, while others including Canada are developing similar laws. Meanwhile, the Fair Trade Town program continues to expand, including new designations across six continents, notably Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The total number of Fair Trade Towns is closing in on 2,200. It’s exciting to look at these global achievements alongside the successes we’ve seen in Canada, where more and more young people are studying at Fair Trade designated schools and campuses, and Canadians of all ages are hard at work advocating for change through the Fair Trade Town program. Together we can push fair trade past the tipping point and truly improve the world around us. Sean McHugh Publisher, Executive Director Canadian Fair Trade Network summer
/ fall 2019 | issue #14
Why Fair Trade?
Business and Banana Suits
Pining for a Better Pineapple
Shifting Growing Regions
New Paths to Just Trade in the Caribbean
All That Glitters: Ethical Gold Shines in Canada
Book Review: Doughnut Economics
CF TN.C A |
Why Fair Trade? We Canadians depend on others to grow many of the products we enjoy every day: cocoa, coffee, fruits, vegetables, and much more. Unfortunately, the supply chains that bring these products to us are often long and convoluted. They lack transparency, and this can lead to exploitation, low pay, poor working conditions, and environmental devastation. Yet we can take an active role in changing this. We can build solidarity with the people who grow our food by choosing fair trade.
Fair Trade Is Respect and Equality Fair trade isn’t just an economic model. It’s a partnership between consumers and producers, based on mutual respect. With fair trade, producers receive a guaranteed minimum price for their products. This price reflects market value and recognizes the incredible effort it takes to grow food and produce goods.
And a Little Extra to Help Close the Gap When businesses purchase fair trade–certified products, they deal directly with the producers. They pay fair market prices plus an additional fair trade premium. Producers use this premium to grow their businesses or fund community development projects—like schools and healthcare centres. Ultimately, fair trade sees producers lead their businesses, shape their communities, and set their own courses toward economic independence.
Mutually Beneficial Long-Term Commitments Typically, fair trade businesses and producers negotiate long-term trading partnerships— this adds stability at both ends of the supply chain. Producers can rely on these commitments to plan for the future. Businesses selling fair trade products can count on a steady supply of high-quality goods.
Fair Trade Promotes Gender Equality Many fair trade co-ops have benefitted from strong women leaders and managers. Fair
Fair trade standards
trade aligns with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy and Goal 5 of the UN’s
Fair trade certifiers, organizations, and
Sustainable Development Goals. The best fair trade certifiers protect gender equality and
producers work together to create and enforce
empower women and girls through their standards.
standards for production, labour, trade, and more. These standards ensure the system
Fair Trade and Climate Change
works for producers and not against them.
Our everyday purchases affect people and the planet. Fair trade standards limit pesticide and chemical use, promote sustainable agricultural and soil regeneration techniques, and
Third-party certifiers mark products with
support reforestation and water management projects. In addition, fair trade carbon credit
a seal or label to signify that the product
programs provide additional revenue for producers.
has met their standards. The Canadian Fair Trade Network currently recognizes Fairtrade
When we choose fair trade products, we stand against poverty in the Global South. Yet fair
International, the Small Producers’ Symbol,
trade isn’t a handout. Fair trade products are noted for their high quality and are produced
the Fair Trade Federation, and the World Fair
in ways that respect human dignity and the health of our planet.
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Students at École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard painted a mural to represent their values and included the Fairtrade Mark. © Sébastien Delorme.
Business and Banana Suits: What’s New with Fair Trade in Ottawa BY EM A N U EL LU K AW IECK I
ttawa-Gatineau is home to about 1.3 million people, and many residents are active in a variety of fields from business to development to technology. This involvement helps shape the National Capital Region’s unique political and social ecosystem. W hen it comes to supporting fair trade, the spirit of involvement is epitomized by Fair Trade Ottawa Équitable (FTOÉ), a group of volunteers who are working hard to achieve a Fair Trade Town designation for the city. To date, Ottawa-Gatineau is home to two Fair Trade Campuses, one Fair Trade School, and four Fair Trade Workplaces. Fair Trade Ottawa Équitable hopes to achieve the remaining requirements for designation soon. They include garnering politica l support from local councillors and continuing to promote all things fair trade in Ottawa, Gatineau, and suburbs. Volunteers are having a great time running around town snapping photos of Fairtrade products for both the Fair Trade Town project and their social media pages. As Ottawa’s fair trade hub, FTOÉ supports organizations, schools, and workplaces in the community by sharing resources, human power, and—most importantly— banana suits.
Fair Trade Campus Program The University of Ottawa became a
Fair Trade Campus in March 2014, and Carleton University in February 2017. Right now, both schools are working to obtain the new Silver and Gold standards set out by the Canadian Fair Trade Network in partnership with Fairtrade Canada. At the same time, the universities are preparing for Fair Trade Campus Week (FTCW) 2019. In the past, FTCW helped University of Ottawa forge a relationship with La Siembra, makers of Camino Fairtrade chocolate, and this relationship continues to cultivate. La Siembra first got involved by providing free samples for events. Next, University of Ottawa invited the co-operative for a fondue and chocolate tasting. Now, Camino takes an active role in planning for FTCW and contributes to the annual Fair Trade Bake Sale. Meanwhile, Carleton University plans on launching two campaigns: one focusing on closing the gap between what businesses believe consumers know about Fairtrade and what consumers actually know. The other aims to promote Fairtrade cotton with a sleek campus T-shirt designed in partnership with Green Campus Cotton.
Fair Trade School Program On March 26, 2019, École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard officially became a Fair Trade School—the first
in the National Capital Region. The school’s fair trade committee has been working since 2017 to achieve this designation, building a strong team, raising awareness, planning and hosting events, and procuring Fairtrade products for students. At Pierre-Savard, students have fun finding creative ways to promote fair trade. For example, one event involved lowering the school’s heat to illustrate the importance of energy conservation. To counteract the cold, the committee handed out Fairtrade hot chocolate. For another event, students shared Fa ir trade chocolate a nd loca l ly grown apples to promote responsible consumerism, whether it be the consumption of local or international products. Students at Pierre-Savard have never been prouder to promote Fairtrade. They recently painted a new mural that symbolizes what is important to them, and it includes Fairtrade products and the fair trade movement. Students at Pierre-Savard hope that their designation encourages other schools to follow suit. They want everyone to work together to ensure a brighter future for all generations. Emanuel Lukawiecki is a member of Fair Trade Ottawa Équitable and a student at École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard. CF TN.C A |
Pining for a Better Pineapple BY K IM BER LY LEU NG
hort, spiky, and succulent, pineapples are popular the world over. They top pizzas and piña coladas, and also serve as a motif for home decor, reminiscent of warm days, tropical breezes, and refreshing drinks. Far from being a rare treat enjoyed mainly in warm climes, pineapples can be found at your local grocery store in large quantities, in fresh, frozen, or canned form. How did such a unique tropical fruit become so common on the shelves of Canadian supermarkets, thousands of miles from where they’re grown? Pineapples are one of the world’s most economically significant crops. Close to 25 million tons of the fruit is grown on a yearly basis, with Costa Rica, Brazil, and the Philippines leading the pack in annual production.
Fairtrade Pineapples Having started with bananas, Equifruit, a Canadian-based Fairtrade-certified fruit importer, is looking to change the status quo for this delicious fruit by introducing Fairtrade pineapples to the national market. It’s not as much of a leap as it may initially seem. Believe it or not, the banana industry
is closely linked to pineapple cultivation and harvest. Some of the biggest names in conventional pineapple exports—like Dole and Del Monte—are also banana producers. Pineapples are often grown on land previously used for banana cultivation, and companies use similar distribution methods to bring pineapples to North America. And like bananas, conventional pineapple production is rife with exploitation, with large corporations taking advantage of workers and the environment.
Challenges in Conventional Pineapple Production Tending pineapple crops is a backbreaking task. Workers spend the day hunched over—since the plants grow low to the ground—without the benefit of tree cover to bring relief from the sun. Because of the difficulty involved in pineapple cultivation, in Costa Rica, these duties are usually left to migrant workers with limited employment options, many of whom have come illegally from neighbouring Nicaragua. Wages are low, jobs are insecure, and unionizing is strongly
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discouraged. These vulnerable workers are unlikely to speak out, regardless of poor working conditions, out of a fear of being laid off or deported. Pineapple cultivation also requires a heavy dose of pesticides. In Costa Rica, pineapple growers apply toxic agrochemicals, to which repeated exposure can cause health issues and damage to the environment, effects that can extend beyond farms. There are reports of contaminated drinking water, with elevated rates of birth defects and serious illnesses, in areas surrounding pineapple plantations. In some cases, the government has had to supply affected communities with clean water. By following standards for chemical use and employment conditions, Fairtrade pineapple farms strive to reduce the negative impacts associated with conventional production. Unfortunately, due to low demand and limited awareness, Fairtrade pineapples are mostly sold on the market at conventional prices. This means despite their commitment to producing a better, more responsible product, Fairtrade pineapple farmers are deriving no economic gain from these efforts.
Like bananas, pineapple production is rife with exploitation Equifruit plans to change that. The company is currently working with an exporter in Costa Rica that purchases their fruit from farmer co-ops and distributes them through a major Canadian grocery chain. “We want to make sure people are treated well across the supply chain,” says Michelle Gubbels, who manages Equifruit’s supply chains. A soft launch was completed in Quebec in May 2019, with plans to eventually expand across the country. But Equifruit isn’t stopping there. It’s also taken on the role of promotion, spreading awareness and touting the benefits of this great fruit when it’s fairly produced. Along with ensuring better standards for workers and promoting Fairtrade pineapples, Equifruit has another mission: providing an option for shoppers. Consumers can’t be empowered to choose a better product if they don’t have the choice to begin with. So to that end, says Gubbels, “we want to give all Canadians access to Fairtrade fruit.” Equifruit hopes that with more awareness and the right options available, customers will reach for ethical, fairly traded fruit every time.
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Kimberly Leung is a Toronto-based freelance writer with a special interest in sustainable and ethical living. CF TN.C A |
Shifting Growing Regions:
Climate Change and Fair Trade Crops BY ER IK JOH NSON
As our climate changes, so do growing regions. What does this mean for fair trade crops? The outlook is far from positive.
o power steam engines, initially, and then power plants, automobiles, aircraft, lawn mowers, Sea-Doos—the list goes on—we’ve burned fossil fuels and spewed aerosols and greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, into our atmosphere. This started during the Industrial Revolution, and temperatures have been climbing ever since. Across the globe, they’ve increased by at least 0.7 C, often more, creating a chain reaction: melting glaciers, rising seas, volatile weather. Scientists agree that humans are the cause of climate change. Our fossil fuel emissions have altered, and continue to alter, the chemistry of the atmosphere, trapping warm air and stif ling the earth’s cycles of heating and cooling. Warmer temperatures cause water to evaporate, yet warmer air holds more moisture, which in turn produces extreme precipitation. Now wet areas are wetter, and dry areas drier.
The experts also agree on something else: Climate change is making indelible impacts on agriculture and food supplies. As the 21st century plods on, more of us will feel these impacts. They’ve already been felt by the people who grow three of the most popular fair trade crops: coffee, cocoa, and bananas. Going forward, things will only get worse unless we can collectively change our course. For a glimpse of how climate change is altering the way we grow food, let’s take a look at each of these crops.
Coffee Sensitive to temperatures, hot and cold alike, and rainfall, arabica coffee thrives at high elevations in tropical climates. Almost every smallholder arabica crop is rain irrigated. Coffee’s key growing regions straddle the equator, and include parts of Africa, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. Collectively this is
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known as the Coffee Belt. A long the belt, temperatures are climbing. In Guatemala, they’re predicted to increase by 2.0 to 2.5 C by 2050. In Ethiopia, by 1.1 to 3.1 C by 2060. Indeed, since 1960, the East African country has already experienced an increase of 1.3 C. What happens to a coffee tree when temperatures rise? Once the mercury exceeds 23 C, coffee fruit doesn’t ripen properly; the result is poorer quality berries. When the mercury hits 30 C on a regular basis, coffee trees experience limited growth and even leaf loss. Changes to precipitation also have negative effects: Excess water limits a tree’s ability to photosynthesize. In addition, pests that afflict coffee trees tend to enjoy balmier conditions. The coffee berry borer has in recent years shifted to higher elevations, expanding its range and destroying more coffee.
Cocoa trees deliver better long-term yields and profitability when grown in shaded agroforestry farms.
Excess rain makes trees vulnerable to leaf rust, a fungal infection that earlier this decade destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of coffee in Central America. While past leaf rust cases were limited to farms at lower altitude, the most recent outbreaks affected higher altitudes as well. “ It ’s a c o ck t a i l of cl i m at e extremes,” says Monika Firl, Director of Sustainability at CoopCoffees, “that is wreaking havoc on coffee, as well as other crops. Leaf rust is just one example of illnesses that can affect quality and yield. Depending on severity, these diseases can kill the trees. And if that’s the case, farmers fall deeper into crisis because it takes three years for newly planted trees to bear fruit.” According to studies, it’s possible that arabica coffee could cease to exist in the wild before this century ends; if you’re a high school student reading this, worst-case scenarios suggest that wild
arabica could disappear in your lifetime. It would be a loss of important diversity and a grim harbinger of our planet’s future. From an economic perspective, shrinking growing regions would be devastating for smallholder coffee farmers, who grow most of the world’s arabica. What are the solutions? Move farms to higher altitudes to escape warm weather? That’s not as easy as it sounds. “When a property becomes prime real estate,” Firl says, “it’s not the vulnerable who get access to it.” “These are solutions for traders,” Firl says. “If coffee’s growing regions are shrinking, where are the farmers going to go? I’ve seen farmers broken by climate change, broken by stress. They’ve gone broke and never returned to coffee.” “Others rise to the occasion, innovating, diversifying, and proving themselves to be the example.” Firl explains how a co-operative of Honduran farmers traded caldo bordelés, a fungicide that contains copper sulfates and hard metals (and yet is okay by organic standards), for a homemade tea of efficient micro-organisms (EMs), “a sort-of kombucha,” Firl says. The caldo bordelés kills leaf rust fungus, but at the same time, damages the beneficial fungi and bacterial biota on the leaf cover. In contrast, the EM tea helps trees build up their immune systems, and improve their capacity to fight damaging fungi and viruses. “It starts with understanding nature,” Firl says. “These farmers adapt their practices to harness nature rather than combat it.” It’s solutions like these that can help abate the burden of climate change for farmers. While conventional agriculture develops solutions around products, chemical inputs that farmers require more and more of every year, farmers
on the ground are finding solutions that are effective, replicable, and inexpensive.
Cocoa In the forests of West Africa, two million farmers grow almost three quarters of the world’s cocoa. The region leads not only in production, but also in quality, and the global chocolate industry leans on Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and other West African countries to meet demands. Like coffee, cocoa thrives in specific climatic conditions: It needs warm weather, humid air, and precipitation— ideally between 1,000 to 2,500 mm every year. Also like coffee, cocoa’s prime growing region is experiencing climate cha n ge –related weat her sh i f t s. Research shows that temperatures have been climbing and will continue to do so. Climate models predict that dry season temperatures and water availability will increase and decrease respectively. Drought bumps up the rate of cocoa tree mortality and limits yields. To deal with these challenges, cocoa farms are on the move. Workers and farmers migrate into new areas, and instead of continuing a tradition of agroforestry, where cocoa grows among other crops under the shade of canopy trees, forests are being levelled to accommodate full-sun plantations. Because such plantations deliver fast growth and quick yields, they’re attractive. They ’re a lso far less sustainable, both economically and env iron menta l ly, a s h igh-shade agroforestry operations produce more profit over the long term, while at the same time protecting biodiversity and sensitive forest ecosystems. In the coming years, shifting cocoa production could cause further deforestation in West Africa, not only in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, but also Liberia and Cameroon, countries with large, intact forest reserves. CF TN.C A |
To prevent the loss of forests, which help soak up carbon emissions, cocoa production needs to return to its agroforestry roots. According to research, use of shade trees can reduce temperatures by 4 degrees, a factor that can help buffer the effects of climate change. Shaded farms become microclimates of deep-root trees and shrubs that hold and cycle water, improving resiliency against drought. As consumers, we should look for chocolate products from brands that encourage farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural techniques that build resiliency and increase the quality and volume of yields. When you buy products certified by Fairtrade, farmer cooperatives receive a premium they can use to develop business and community infrastructure and provide training on land reclamation, improved farming methods, and more.
Bananas Unlike coffee and cocoa, bananas like warmer temperatures, and experts predict that climate change will expand the fruit’s growing regions. Unfortunately, certain diseases, for example, the fungus black sigatoka, or black leaf streak, can become more aggressive with hotter weather, as higher temperatures accelerate spore germination. To battle disease, farm operators will need to use more fungicides and other inputs whose costs won’t easily fit in an already narrow profit margin. This likely means less for workers. A not her dow n side of wa r m temperatures is increased water demand; bananas need a lot of water distributed over the growing season. When they go without, yields and quality suffer. Growing bananas in warmer locales will require more water, tapping into an already shrinking supply of fresh water. When bananas grow in
Unlike coffee and cocoa, bananas like warmer temperatures. Unfortunately diseases like black sigatoka become more aggressive with hotter weather.
less than ideal water conditions, leaf size is limited, and this results in smaller, older-looking fruit and premature ripening. Atmospheric tra nsformations associated with climate change— increased evaporation and humidity— can bring about more volatile weather, including higher winds. In the tropics, storms can have a huge impact on agricultural operations, especially for bananas, whose shallow roots are easily plucked from the soil by raging winds.
A Canadian Perspective Meanwhile, here in Canada, our weather also continues to change. Since 1948, temperatures have increased from coast to coast by an estimated average of 1.7 C. Across northern Canada that average is 2.3 C. Expect less snow and a lot more rain. To halt this transformation, here and abroad, we need to act now. We need to eliminate carbon emissions as soon as possible, ideally by 2050, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas before 2100. This would be a bestcase scenario, one that sees global temperatures rise by only 2 C above preindustrial levels—the target of the Paris Agreement.
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Unfortunately, at this stage we’re not even close. Reports suggest we will fall short of the targets set by the Paris Agreement, as well as many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals related to protecting the climate and ending poverty and hunger. Choosing Fairtrade coffee, cocoa, and bananas is a good start, a small step that brings real benefits to farmers and workers. But we need to do more. We need to collectively shed our dependence on fossil fuels. Right now there are about one million species threatened with extinction. Who can say how many will be threatened 10 years from now? Or 100? Perhaps certain varietals of coffee, cocoa, and bananas will be on that list. In the case of coffee, wild arabica is nearing the fringes. While the loss of biodiversity is a certain tragedy, climate change is more than just an environmental issue; it’s a moral one, where the livelihoods and food security of millions of small-scale farmers are at risk. Erik Johnson is managing editor of Fair Trade Magazine.
New Paths to Just Trade in the Caribbean BY GAV IN FR IDELL
f you visited the small island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) two decades ago, you would have seen a thriving banana industry led by small farmers growing under sustainable conditions. Today, the industry has all but collapsed. While bananas are still grown on SVG for local and regional markets, when I visited in the summer of 2018, hardly a single banana was being exported to the European Union (EU). And yet, for decades, preferential access to the EU market was key to the success of banana industries in SVG and its Windward Island neighbours: Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Lucia. The story of how they got from there to here is a long one, involving free trade reforms beginning in the 1990s. Most importantly, a series of disputes at the World Trade Organization from 1997 to 2008 ruled that preferential access to the EU market, which had been extended to all members of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States, amounted
to discrimination against non-participating countries and had to be phased out. Caribbean nations fought to keep these preferences, which they rightly defended as owed to vulnerable nations highly dependent on a limited range of exports due to the legacies of colonialism and slavery. The decline of preferential trade spelled doom for banana farmers and had disastrous impacts on the national economies of the Windward Islands. Take SVG, for example. Adjusting for inflation, the value of its total merchandise exports in 2017— after 25 years of “free trade” reforms—was still only 16 percent of what it had been in 1993. In 1992, SVG had 7,855 active banana farmers. Today, according to Cecil Ryan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Winfresh, a public corporation jointly owned by the Windward Islands governments, only 100 remain—a decline of 99 percent. As a result, Winfresh, originally incorporated
Workers at the VincyFresh facility in Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, prepare oranges for processing.
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in the 1990s to manage banana exports, has gradually changed its role. Today it runs commercial operations with a specific developmental mission: to find and promote a range of opportunities for small farmers.
Fairtrade Bananas and Living Income With the banana industry in disarray, farmers initially turned to Fairtrade certification in the early 2000s, becoming pioneering Fairtrade banana partners. Unfortunately, Fairtrade proved unable to prevent the continuing decline of the industry. There were several reasons for this, including the rise of black sigatoka disease and the challenges of meeting growing demands from supermarket giants for visually perfect bananas. A major factor, however, was income. While certainly not getting rich under the old, preferential trade agreement, Caribbean farmers did receive something close to what today might be considered a living income. Banana farmers were often able to put aside a bit of money to save for their children’s education or invest in a house. Although Fairtrade has made an important turn toward ensuring living incomes since 2014 by developing the Global Living Wage Coalition with other certification bodies, many Fairtrade farmers have historically not received living incomes. Speaking to me from his office in Saint Lucia, Bernard Cornibert, CEO of Winfresh, reflected on the difficulties faced by Caribbean farmers, who have confronted relentless downward pressure from large-scale competitors across the globe and within the Fairtrade system. One major concern of Cornibert’s is that the Fairtrade system does not sufficiently distinguish between smallholders and large-scale farmers. For instance, Caribbean farmers have
faced increasing competition from large plantations in Latin America and West Africa that use economies of scale and, in some cases, low wages to offer lower cost Fairtrade bananas. Supermarket chains in the EU, under pressure to earn profits, opt for lower cost Fairtrade bananas from large plantations, while grocers who want to buy from smallholders in the Caribbean are not able to distinguish their products in the market and recoup the extra costs. With a situation like this, said Cornibert, “Fairtrade is not particularly helpful to the smallholder in Saint Lucia.”
Possibilities for Fair Trade Cornibert is worried that Fairtrade has become too big and volume-focused. “If you have Fairtrade on everything,” he said, “the consumer ignores the merits of Fairtrade, because everything is Fairtrade.” In the end “the Fairtrade product becomes a regular commodity.” One solution would be for Fairtrade to more clearly distinguish small farms from large with separate or identifiable labels. This would “let the consumer make the choice,” Cornibert said. Another solution lies in innovative approaches to trading fairly. Winfresh still manages banana exports under Fairtrade terms. In Saint Lucia, the industry has declined significantly since the 1990s, but farmers continue to export bananas to the EU. Winfresh also exports and ripens bananas purchased from Fairtrade farms in the Dominican Republic, where farmers report the benefits of a more stable income and community projects funded by the social premium. Increasingly, however, Winfresh has turned attention toward diversification, mov i n g i nt o va lue -a dde d food manufacturing of juice, cordials, pepper sauce, pepper mash, marinades, non-dairy frozen desserts, and bottled water. While these products are not
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yet Fairtrade certified, they provide opportunities for farmers along with employment for young workers in manufacturing in a region facing high unemployment and emigration. Winfresh works with small farmers, providing credit, technical assistance, business training, subsidized inputs like seedlings, and a guaranteed contract to buy the final product for a sustainable price. In its product development, Winfresh a ims to promote “the Caribbean way of life,” emphasizing visions of sustainable lives and products that ref lect Caribbean culture and tastes. To develop its business, Winfresh aims to start with local, regional, and diaspora markets before ramping up to larger markets in Europe and North America.
Finding a Niche in the Global Economy At the VincyFresh facility in SVG, a subsidiary of the regional Winfresh, farmers have been encouraged to grow peppers to meet increasing global demand for sauce and mash. During a tour last summer, I saw significant progress. VincyFresh has developed a state-of-the-art processing facility, drawing funds from a variety of partners, including a loan for millions of dollars from the Latin America and Caribbean–led intergovernmental organization ALBA.
demand , not just in the products you buy, but in the life of the person who made it. The exterior of the VincyFresh facility in Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. © Gavin Fridell.
Before being able to export its product to major markets, however, VincyFresh needs to overcome the challenge of scale. This is not easy in island states with small populations—the population of SVG is just over 109,000 people. To be cost effective, VincyFresh needs to have lots of product and more than a few customers to compensate for expensive shipping charges. To address this, VincyFresh is storing barrels of pepper sauce and mash in a large warehouse, waiting to ship at a cost-effective scale when the time is right, anticipated to be the end of 2019. There is certainly no simple road ahead. The global trading system, as Cornibert observed, is not an easy place for small and vulnerable countries. The concept of comparative advantage, so central to the theory of free trade, simply does not work in the real world. The application of the model of free trade to international trade assumes that countries “come together and manage” trade based on who has the comparative advantage in what products. Without this happening, said Cornibert, “the whole thing breaks down.” Larger countries, far from settling in on what they do best, produce and export anything and everything to the weaker or less competitive countries. As a result, the benefits of free trade remain an illusion for many small developing countries, which do not have an “absolute advantage” in anything. This is a challenge for the Windward Islands, which do not have oil resources and cannot compete globally in heavy industries. As a result, said Ryan, their potential advantages lie in “agriculture, fruit production, and service industries.” For Winfresh, this means that “food processing has to be the thrust.” Its ability to accomplish its goals is about more than the success of any single product, whether peppers, juice, or bananas. It is about the long-term success of small Caribbean economies.
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Gavin Fridell is Canada Research Chair in International Development Studies at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and the author of Coffee and Alternative Trade. CF TN.C A |
All That Glitters: A Ethical Gold Shines in Canada BY NAOMI Z U R E V INSK I
pproximately 50 to 100 million people worldwide rely on artisanal and small-scale gold mining for their livelihoods. Because the gold extraction industry is dominated by large-scale mechanized operations, artisanal miners toil at the fringes, often extracting and processing ore by hand and selling their hard-earned gold for less than fair prices. By paying fair minimum prices and setting standards for safe working conditions, environmental protections, women’s rights, and more, ethical gold programs, including Fairtrade, are redefining how precious metals are mined, tracked, and traded. For Canadians looking for Fairtrade and ethical jewellery, there are more options now than ever before. Jewellers are innovating, finding ways to source high-quality gold, while also ensuring high standards. This results in a better deal for those working to bring gold from the ground to your finger.
Fairtrade Gold in Canada John Esposito, owner of Malleable Jewellers in Toronto, became a licensed goldsmith with Fairtrade Canada in 2018. Originally from the UK, Esposito is a certified diamond grader and established Malleable in 2017. “I’ve been in the jewellery industry for almost eight years now, and for me it’s about how I can mobilize my beliefs and ethics around the industry,” Esposito says. “I announced I was going to be using Fairtrade in January 2019, and made it available to the public in March 2019 with six ethically minded rings.”
All over the world, millions of people, like this worker in Camarines Norte, Philippines, make a living through small-scale artisanal gold mining. © ILO / Minette Rimando.
Families turn to artisanal gold mining as a way to make ends meet. © ILO / Minette Rimando.
Esposito says his short-term vision is to use Fairtrade material in all his custom work, and long-term, to use Fairtrade gold in most of his ready-towear pieces. “I’m not going to be able to change the world on my own. However, what I am able to do is help others to create change on a local scale, which will have a global impact,” he says. “But I’m not going to be able to change the consumer’s mindset by creating a piece and giving it an unattainable price. So when I launched my Fairtrade certified jewellery, I positioned the price lower than if it was non-origin gold, because I don’t want people to be scared away from using it.” In addition to working w ith Fairtrade gold, Esposito upcycles materials like gemstones, and recycles gold by repurposing the material into new designs. He currently sources his Fairtrade-certified gold from a Peruvian
mine through the supply chain Hoover and Strong.
Taking Ownership of Supply Chains Another Toronto-based company, FTJCo, established in 2006, was one of the first jewellers in the world, and the first in North America, to use Fairtrade-certified gold. As a Certified B Corporation, FTJCo has to prove the impact of its business on workers, suppliers, communities, and the environment. “We started with our two cofounders, Robin Gambhir and Ryan Taylor, and we’ve grown from there,” says Kesha Frank, FTJCo’s head of production and goldsmith. “Now we’re about 12 people, and we’re female-led, so the company is 80 percent women.” Frank has been with FTJCo since 2015, and studied jewellery arts at George Brown College. FTJCo’s pricing
is competitive and they primarily do engagement and wedding bands. Everything is done in house, including casting and setting. “The gold that we use is what we call our 50/50 blend, so it’s 50 percent certified recycled, and 50 percent Just Gold. We feel it marries both the social and environmental responsibilities,” Frank says. Just Gold is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and uniquely sourced from a supply chain that FTJCo helped to build with its sister company, Consensas, and IMPACT Transform, an NGO in Ottawa. Consensas is a technology firm led by FTJCo’s co-founder Ryan Taylor, who is a graduate goldsmith and master’s candidate enrolled in OCAD University’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation program. While offering Fairtrade-certified gold was a good start, for Taylor the next CF TN.C A |
step was creating a flourishing supply chain. Consensas was born out of the fact that small businesses often have difficulty managing the reporting and documentation necessary for various certifications. The company has developed systems to bring minerals to the market with full traceability and measurable impact. “We were excited about the gold from the DRC because it’s in a conflict-affected area, with lot of challenges, very high risk, and a market that has no Western business access. We saw a real opportunity to be able to prove this idea that you don’t need a label—what you need is trusted data,” Taylor says. “It’s great to feel compelled to do ‘good,’ but where is the evidence that you are? Humanity isn’t a marketing scheme and we must begin to care about the data more than subjectivity, opinions, or fancy labels.” Consensas and FTJCo emphasize the importance of providing information that is objective, unfalsified, and trackable to prove that materials and products are, in fact, fair trade. “Just Gold is segregated all along our supply chain,” says Frank. “So the gold we get from the refinery is actually the gold that the miners in the DRC physically mined.”
A worker processes ore at a small gold mine in Tanzania. © International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
Taylor notes the work being done through Consensas also ensures miners are paid in full. “When the earth produces gold it produces all these other minerals too, which are married together when we dig it up. One of the things being lost to these communities is the value of silver, and silver can take up to 20 percent of the weight of the material they’re exporting,” Taylor says. “These people have been exporting hundreds of kilos of gold, where 20 percent of the weight was fine silver, which also has a value but they were never paid for it. So the ability here is to acknowledge and reconcile value with them. ‘Hey, you sold me $100 in gold, I actually owe you another $8 for silver.’ Although $8 might not seem like a lot, if people are living on less than $1 a day, then these are huge payments back to them.” With Just Gold, FTJCo is able to give evidence to where their gold comes from. “No other company or gold program has a fully traceable supply chain like this. Every time I finish a ring I assign it a serial number, and with that serial number the client is able to backtrack with this information and see who mined it on what day, so it’s a measurable impact,” Frank says.
Labels and Claims: The Challenges of Greenwashing
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For companies like Malleable and FTJCo, selling Fairtradecertified gold means they are subject to review and regular reports on their business activities. One of the issues, however, is that some businesses market themselves as “fair trade” without proper certification. “You can’t really call anything fair trade unless it’s certified, and greenwashing is something that we’re starting to see in our industry,” Frank says. “In a perfect world, more people would understand the difference between ‘fair trade’ and ‘Fairtrade.’ Fairtrade means it’s certified, but the term ‘fair trade’ doesn’t necessarily mean anything. People are starting to throw around terms and that’s confusing for clients, because they’ll see ‘fair trade,’ but that company can’t necessarily tell you how or why.” For the time being, ethical gold continues to grow in accessibility, and for Esposito, the choice to buy and sell Fairtrade gold is a natural one. “This is an option that is accessible and has an impact on a local and global scale,” Esposito says. “For me, this isn’t just another aspect to my business, this is within my cycle, my ethos. I would like to see this become more readily available with more jewellers on board through the process—that’s my vision.” Naomi Zurevinski is a freelance writer, editor, and researcher based in Saskatoon. CF TN.C A |
Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist by Kate Raworth Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017 310 pages, $18.00 ISBN: 978-1603587969
R E V IE W BY Z ACK GROSS
was first pointed in the direction of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist by my youngest daughter. She was studying sustainability courses in England and attended a guest lecture by Kate Raworth, the book’s author. Raworth teaches at Oxford University and is also affiliated with numerous other campuses, NGOs, and institutes across England and Europe, all focusing on macroeconomic social change. When my daughter told me about the lecture, I watched a few of Raworth’s talks online and was intrigued enough to order Doughnut Economics. I found it very interesting. After an introduction that gives a brief history of economic theory, the following seven chapters combine a critique of conventional economic thinking; an overview of the daunting economic, social, and environmental challenges our world currently faces; and a clear alternative to how we should “think economics” and act in all of humanity’s best interests.
Here in Canada, when we hear the word “doughnut,” we think of a chain of coffee shops. However, after seeing Raworth’s doughnut graphic, which first appears on page 9 and is referenced throughout the book, the word now carries more significance. Raworth’s graphic illustrates the doughnut’s inner ring as humanity’s social foundation: what all people need and should have access to. The outer ring is the ceiling of planetary pressure our environment can withstand. Thus, the doughnut itself is a “safe and just space for humanity” to dwell within. On page 38, she adds a lot of detail to the diagram. For example on the outer edge of the doughnut, she includes climate change and biodiversity loss, and on the inner edge social needs such as housing and gender equality. At the end of the book, through statistics, she shows where we have overshot what the world can withstand environmentally and undershot humanity’s just needs. Also helpful to the reader are extensive notes, a bibliography, and a detailed index. R awor t h a s k s f u nd a ment a l questions about the way the world—and economic theory and activity—works. She questions the power of corporations that make profits to shareholders their mantra, the lack of caring and leadership of governments especially in these present days of funding cuts, and the monolithic thinking of academia and policy-makers who are all about growth and the GDP.
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Th is m irrors my ex per ience teaching, when students would come up to me after an international development studies lecture and tell me that what I said in class was the opposite of what they were learning in economics! The book’s final chapter exhorts the reader and world to change, and here Raworth provides a number of examples of where community efforts have successfully addressed human and environmental needs. However, I think two concerns are missing at this point in the book. One is an acknowledgment that the number of people reading this book and thinking seriously about these issues is very small. Sadly, humanity may not be ready to take on her challenge. We may, in fact, still be heading in the opposite direction. What else is missing—and more appropriately may need to come from us as activists and advocates—are the small, local steps that, if accumulated, can change the world locally and globally. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals icon includes 17 symbols of overall goals. Like Raworth’s doughnut, it makes a nice graphic that conveys big objectives. But it is the smaller actions within the goals that we need to focus on so that real change will happen, moving us beyond talk. Zack Gross is a member of the board of Fairtrade Canada and past president of the CFTN board of directors.
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