Fair Trade is winning at public policy
On a sunny day in June 2018, I was privileged to be invited to attend the Inaugural EU Cities Fair and Ethical Trade Award Ceremony, in Brussels along with representatives from 15 other EU countries.
This was for me personally an exciting moment as someone who has been involved in fair and ethical trade since I was a teenager, when I bought my first Fairtrade certified product, a jar of Cafe Direct coffee from Oxfam in 1992.
The award was part of an 18-month project, where I was part of a group of twenty-five cross-sector representatives from around Europe who were responsible for supporting the European Commission to develop the award, from the scope, to the criteria and application process.
It was great to be part of a joint project managed by the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and The International Trade Centre, based in Geneva. I have made some great connections and learnt about their work, and of course, was able to tell them all about Wales and our groundbreaking Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015.
Ten years ago this year, Wales become the world’s first Fair Trade Nation, and I have been National Co-ordinator for Fair Trade Wales, the organisation who managed the fair trade nation campaign, and was delighted to see Scotland join us in 2013, Northern Ireland in 2017, and Sweden became a Pioneer for Fair and Ethical Trade this year.
There are now more than 2000 Fair Trade Towns around the world, and along with other movements such as Transition Towns, Bee-friendly initiatives and Cities of Sanctuary.
It is more and more common to see schemes that recognise the action of people in our communities having a positive impact on public policy in their area, and I look forward to seeing more public bodies in Wales supporting community action in this way.
It is no surprise that the success of the Fair Trade and ethical movement globally, has attracted the attention of the European Commission’s (EC) Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, who during the Award ceremony reminded us that
“…values based trade is vital; cities have an important role to play, to trade transparently, fairly, ethically and sustainably.”
These words are particularly poignant at a time where google searches for ‘ trade wars’ outnumbers the searches for ‘ Star Wars’, as across the pond, global trade appears to be taking a different approach to the collaborative and peaceful direction we have seen global leaders wanting to take.
The city and local authority of Ghent, Belgium’s first fair trade town and the first winner of this new prestigious award has therefore an even more important role to play. Their city strategy is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) often referred to as the Global Goals, and their commitment to providing fair and ethical work-wear for their schools, restaurants and universities is based on their historic links to the textile industry.
It’s also a natural response to the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2015 which saw more than 1,000 workers lose their lives and more than 2,500 injured. They have been heavily involved in raising awareness of the Fashion Revolution campaigns across the city and the activities include a Fashion Festival, Fair Walks, Fair Breakfasts and a whole host of resources to help everyone to play their part.
These issues also strike a chord with young people in Wales, who have worked with their school, PTA and board of governors to switch their school uniforms to Fairtrade including Cathays High School, Cardiff, Welshpool Primary School in Powys and Ysgol Llanllwni, Pencader and many more.
The runners-up of the award were Dortmund, Lyon, Madrid, Malmo, Saarbrucken and Vitoria-Gasteiz who were commended for their innovation, work with education and community participation, global partnerships and inspiring procurement practice and you can see more information here.
I was looking forward to seeing a Welsh local authority win the first award, but no applications were received from the UK. Let’s hope that Brexit doesn’t stop local authorities getting the credit they deserve on the world stage, and so calling all local authorities in Wales to get ready for 2020!
Elen Jones is the Globally Responsible Wales Goal Convener with the Office of The Future Generations Commissioner, currently on secondment to the Art of The Possible programme, from Fair Trade Wales.