Testimony 9 - The Co-operative Group
The Co-operative Group has been supporting fair trade since 1992 when we became the first major retailer to sell Fairtrade Mark Cafedirect coffee. The Co-op has expanded its range ever since and this year, as in previous years, the Co-op is backing national Fairtrade Fortnight with its biggest ever in-store push to reinforce its position as Britain's leading fair trade retailer. many fair trade products are on offer in Co-op stores during fairtrade Fortnight*.
The Co-operative Group**, like other Co-ops, conducts its business in accordance with co-operative values and principles; among others these include values of social responsibility and caring for others. As one of our principles is co-operation between co-operatives it is natural that we look to support fair trade. In deed, it is often the case that many of these disadvantaged groups are small producer co-operatives.
The problems associated with world trade are often complex, sensitive and vary throughout different parts of the world according to the type of employment. Cocoa, coffee, banana farmers and tea producers are often forced to sell their crops for less than it cost to grow them – and everyday problems such as bad weather, illness or a poor harvest can have devastating effects. Fair trade brings greater security by promising a better price, that is guaranteed to cover the costs of production.
The Co-operative Group have worked with a wide range of interested groups to do what we can so people in developing countries have decent working and living conditions.
The Co-op offers an increasing range of fairly traded products. The Co-op Own Brand Range includes: coffee, chocolate, bananas, red and white wine and mangoes. The Co-op Own Brand Chocolate is made from cocoa from the Kuapa Kokoo Co-operative in Ghana. This means that Garstang shoppers, by choosing fair trade chocolate from Co-op, can improve the lives of cocoa farmers in Ghana.
The Co-op has just launched the first supermarket fairly traded white wine, in a link up with Traidcraft, to help small-scale growers from poorer regions take greater ownership of their livelihoods.
The Co-op Fair Trade Chilean Oaked Semillon, compliments the Co-op Fair Trade Chilean Carmenere - the first supermarket fairly traded red wine that was launched last year. Both wines are from the Los Robles co-operative in Chile, which is owned by its 55 members. In the last two years there has been investment in new equipment, purification for waste water, a new lab, showers, toilets and a refectory.
These two examples clearly highlight how customers in Garstang have already improved the lives of third world workers; customers need to buy fair trade products regularly so that eventually fair trade products will become mainstream household purchases. The Co-operative Group has promoted fair trade in their publications, leaflets, membership activity, public relations work and advertising and will continue to do so. Co-operative Group Regional Secretary Joan Keysell said: "We hope to encourage more consumers to purchase fair trade products in the future, as well as heightening general awareness of the plight of many growers and producers in the Third World."
* Fairtrade Fortnight is organised by the Fairtrade Foundation, which licenses the Fairtrade Mark to individual products that meet its strict criteria. The Fairtrade Mark is the UK's only independent consumer label that guarantees a better deal for Third world producers.
** Co-operative Societies are owned and democratically controlled by consumers, who become members of their local Co-op and take part in a wide range of educational, social and cultural activities on a voluntary basis.