In its latest retailer first, Co-op has announced it is further pioneering Fairtrade through its unique ingredients policy, whereby all the bananas, tea and coffee used across its entire own brand product range will benefit Fairtrade producers and their communities.
The latest announcement follows its move last year to be the first to commit to sourcing all the cocoa used in Co-op own brand production on Fairtrade terms and means that the retailer is 100% aligned across Fairtrade’s own key four food commodities.
Fairtrade, which more than 20 years ago trail blazed the concept of ethical purchasing, has now become mainstream with three out of four (72 per cent) of shoppers saying they completely or mostly understand* what Fairtrade is all about, according to a report by the Co-op.
The average Fairtrade consumer has been buying Fairtrade products for five years but there is an opportunity to convert more shoppers to Fairtrade as 33 per cent would make Fairtrade purchases if they were more aware of the benefits.
Brad Hill, Fairtrade Strategy Manager at Co-op said: ‘Co-op has championed Fairtrade since its inception and we continue to outperform competitors. Last year our sales grew by almost 14 per cent, more than double that of the market and we believe this is as a result of both our commitment and the way in which we tell the stories of the people behind the Fairtrade Mark. This in itself inspires purchase.
‘This year we are focusing on increasing our sourcing of core Fairtrade commodities to drive further Fairtrade Premium to producer communities and building further our customer relationships with them, through further investments of our own.’
The latest announcement follows the Co-op’s recent move to be first in the world to adopt the new Fairtrade Sourced Ingredient program on flowers, meaning that all the African roses Co-op sources for use across its entire flower range will return a Fairtrade Premium. Some 35 million Co-op rose stems a year are now certified as Fairtrade.
There are noticeable concerns around the introduction of more ethical schemes, claiming varying, untested benefits. Consumers could easily confuse these schemes with Fairtrade, and mistake other programmes for offering the same level of impact, and the independent assurance of Fairtrade.
However, with 23 per cent of consumers saying that they completely understand the term Fairtrade, and 49 per cent having some understanding, by demonstrating impact and difference Fairtrade is in a good place to continue to maintain and build on its shoppers.
Brad adds: ‘We know the more fairly traded certifications that are introduced the more confusion this is causing for consumers. And we know that this is hindering the market development of Fairtrade. As producers continue to tell us that Fairtrade is the most effective certification for them in a mainstream market, and is the only certification to empower those producers and pay a minimum price and Premium, we need to do what we can to really show customers the benefits to communities by making the Fairtrade choice.
‘So we believe the right approach is to build upon the success of Fairtrade. That’s why in addition to our sourcing commitment we are investing directly to extend further the benefits of our trading relationships. We are embarking in new projects with our coffee farmers in Brazil, tea farmers in Malawi and banana farmers in Dominican Republic.’
In recent years and going over and above paying a Fairtrade Premium, Co-op has extended its reach further with its own ‘beyond Fairtrade’ programme, which has provided additional support to farmers, co-operatives and producer associations across Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, giving workers access to fair pay, helping to build classrooms, medical facilities and bring clean water to homes.
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