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Fair trade in Scotland must be much more than a consumer label

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A member blog post by

Martin Rhodes, Chief Executive

Scottish Fair Trade Forum

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During this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight, the Scottish Government published an independent review of Fair Trade sales and promotion in Scotland. At a time of year when we were celebrating Fair Trade’s successes and achievements, it was important to have this substantial report giving us a wider view of where we are and where we could be in the future. The report acknowledges Fair Trade’s achievements, sets out the wider context and identifies the challenges for the future.

Undoubtedly, much has been achieved in awareness and sales of Fair Trade in Scotland, which was recognised when Scotland achieved Fair Trade Nation status in 2013 and had it successfully renewed in 2017. However, the climate emergency and any response to it, more than anything else changes the context of trade and business dramatically. Fair Trade as the International Fair Trade Charter states “works to transform trade in order to achieve justice, equity and sustainability for people and planet.” We won’t have a comprehensive and effective response to the global climate emergency without global trade justice.

Scotland’s support for Fair Trade can be part of its contribution to the global challenge of the climate emergency. The report rightly positions Fair Trade as integral to Scotland’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and delivering on its commitment to being a good global citizen. It is important, therefore to acknowledge, as the report does, that Fair Trade is not just about a consumer labelling initiative but about a wider commitment to economic justice.

Recognising Fair Trade in this way will help to deliver on the commitments to global citizenship, ‘Beyond Aid’ and ‘Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development’. The report highlights the challenges in ensuring that Fair Trade is widely adopted, and recommends greater coherence in the Government’s approach to trade, human rights, procurement, exporting and importing. To achieve this, we need a renewed commitment to Fair Trade from government agencies, civil society organisations, businesses and the public sector through wide adoption of Fair Trade policies and purchasing practices.

The report also has some key messages for Fair Trade advocates. Those of us in the Fair Trade movement need to renew our messaging showing it is clearly relevant to today and tomorrow’s global challenge of the climate emergency. We need to continue to influence behavioural change not just by individual consumers but also by public and corporate procurers. We need to address difficulties in supply chains and access to Fair Trade products.

Above all, it is clear from this report that there is a requirement to embed broad fair trade principles across Scotland in order to ensure we can achieve our commitments to sustainable development and a wellbeing economy.

Together we have achieved so much in our commitment to Fair Trade to date, but through integrating Fair Trade into our commitment to sustainable development in the wider sense, we will achieve even more at a time in history when it is more imperative than ever to do so.

Check out the full review here.

This article was written by Martin Rhodes, Chief Executive at the Scottish Fair Trade Forum.

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