More than 300 people from 42 countries gathered in Lima, Peru from 16th to 19th of September for the 15th International Fair Trade Summit for discussing, sharing experience, and exchanging best practices in their efforts towards a common vision for an alternative global economy, where people and planet have higher priority than growth and profits. The overarching theme was “Innovations for a Fair Future” and during the summit workshops and debates were structured around four thematic tracks: Accessing Markets; Deepening Fair Trade; New Big Ideas; and Food & Farming. Within these four strands, participants could do workshops and discussions on product design and engagement with consumers via social media; Living Wage and the Fair Payment Process, as well as the Guarantee System; the relevance of impact investment for Fair Trade; and the future of coffee along with securing sustainable incomes for farmers/producers.
A particularly lively session was the debate on the question: “Does Fair Trade need a commercial transformation?” While most agree that the market share of Fair Trade needs to grow, some also exhibited reluctance towards engaging too heavily in commercial transformation out of concerns that it would mean giving in to the type of unrestrained market forces which our movement believes have brought about the obsession with profits at the expense of people and planet. Martin Moritz from El Puente here offered sobering words: It is important for a successful Fair Trade business to be present, dynamic and relevant to its customers, which means collaborating closely with producers, workers and artisans on product design to meet the common demands of consumers. However, with strict and professional adherence to the Guarantee System and the Internal Monitoring System of one’s organization it is possible to make Fair Trade a facilitator of success rather than an obstacle to being competitive. Jeremy Piercy also gave the refreshing reminder that consumers today highly demand climate-friendly products and that they want diversity at the same time. He pointed out that they constantly see elephants as the favoured animal symbol on Fair Trade products, and consumers want more than that. In this sense, the discussion on commercial transformation was also linked with one of the key themes going through the workshops and discussions of the summit: Climate change.
Indeed, during the Annual General Meeting of WFTO Global on the 19th of September the membership voted to update one of the ten Fair Trade principles and rename it “Climate Crisis and Protecting our Planet.” This principle will significantly increase efforts of the membership to promote sustainable production patterns by, in particular, reducing CO2 emissions, waste and the use of plastics. Read the official press release here.
As the newly elected president of the WFTO Board, Roopa Mehta, stated afterwards, the global Fair Trade movement has long been showing significant efforts to address the climate crisis, through organic agriculture, upcycling and recycling, use of natural fibres, among other things. These efforts are now being stepped up to handle the escalating crisis and mitigate the negative impacts it is having on the poor and marginalised communities that the Fair Trade movement represents. As such, the 15th International Fair Trade Summit in Lima this year, was a loud, public statement of this fact.