Enriching lives with ethical finance

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UK-based, Shared Interest lends money to Fair Trade organisations worldwide. What makes us different is we do not usually require security. This enables us to reach farmers and handcrafters in remote communities, struggling to find finance elsewhere.

We are a Registered Society with 11,000 UK investors providing over £38m. We strive to be a responsible lender, recognised with a Queen’s Award twice, and in 2015 awarded the title of ‘most ethical finance institution working in the fair trade sector.’

Shared Interest currently makes payments to over 400 producer groups across 59 countries. Our main aim is to help smallholder farmers and handcraft groups, and we lend in two ways: directly to fair trade producers and to fair trade wholesale or retail businesses.  We lend to support Fairtrade products such as coffee; fresh fruit, nuts, and cocoa, as well as handcrafts such as weaved baskets and furniture.

We want to do more than provide finance on fair terms. The Fair Trade organisations we finance say that, thanks to our supporters, they have helped transform their communities.  For this reason, we like to keep up to date with issues faced by our customers.  We find that our annual Producer Committee meetings facilitated by in-country staff in Peru, Ivory Coast, and Kenya, give producers the opportunity to discuss common issues and market trends. While it is not in our remit to provide a solution to these problems, sharing experiences can assist organisations in resolving their own issues.

For instance, citrus farming is a growing source of income in Ghana but climate change continues to be a big challenge, with fruit ripening early or crops being lost in their entirety due to the changing rainfall patterns.  Nyame Akwan is a Fairtrade orange producer that is surviving commercially, despite these various setbacks.

Farmers approached Shared Interest for finance in 2015 when fruit flies were causing production losses of up to 40%.  The loan allowed the group to purchase fertilisers for farmers and ultimately increase production volumes. Farm maintenance equipment helped reduce fruit loss to only 10%.

Education also helped improve yields. Previously, harvesting involved manually plucking the fruit with sticks, which led to spoilage. After training, the farmers began to hang wire nets under the trees to catch the oranges.

Thanks to Shared Interest investors, Nyame Akwan is helping over 100 farmers to earn a living.  Chairman Mustapha Akubakar said: “Once our membership reaches 200, we would like to become a co-operative.”

See their website here.

Last Wednesday, the 2nd of August, was calculated as the Earth Overshoot Day (previously known as Ecological Debt Day), which is a specific point of the year when human overall consumption exceeds the capacity of Earth natural resources generated for that particular year. It means that from that day on we, as humans, live on ecological debt for the rest of the year. Of course, this is a debt which  is (almost) impossible to pay.

This year the Earth Overshoot Day came one day earlier than last year, illustrating thus a trend which has existed for decades.

To calculate the exact date, the Global Footprint Network determines Earth´s biocapacity and divides this by the world ecological footprint we have made. The final date is then calculated by multiplying the quotient by number of the days of the year.

The key component for calculation of the Earth Overshoot Day is thus human consumption represented by the world ecological footprint. This is an ecological concept taking into account all human consumption of natural resources and converting it into the number of so called global hectares necessary for securing our needs. This can be calculated for individuals, cities, nations or the whole world. Based on this year’s calculations, current world population would need 1,7 planets to secure its needs for this year (at the current level of consumption).

You can calculate your individual ecological footprint here.

What can we do?

Simply put: we must practice responsible consumption and attempt to reduce our individual ecological footprint. Sometimes little things are enough – using public transport rather than a car, walking more often, turning off the lights, not producing unnecessery waste, or sourcing daily products locally and buying Fair Trade products.

Responsible consumption and production is one of the Sustainable Development Goals introduced by United Nations in 2015 and Respect for the Envrionment is also one of the Ten Principles of Fair Trade used by WFTO. In WFTO-Europe we support producers and organizations which maximize the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources in their ranges and minimize their impact on the environment. All members of WFTO are comitted to the environement, and it is essential that we work to keep our ecological usage to a minimum.

Member in the Spotlight: Les Jardins de Gaïa

It was in 1994 that Arlette Rohmer set up Les Jardins de Gaïa, guided by her passion for tea, organic farming and biodynamics, and so began a personal adventure filled with wonderful encounters in the four corners of the world.

These encounters, the result of a genuine commitment, have resulted in lasting relationships with producers, who for the most part have become friends and have allowed the Alsace-based company to gradually build up an exceptional range of organic and fair-trade teas and herbal teas.

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Les  Jardins de Gaïa is aimed both at tea novices and connoisseurs, with a diversity which is unique in the market, ranging from the classics to the rarest and most precious leaves!

Whether the teas are plain or flavoured, white, green, oolong, black, rooibos or herbal, what they have in common is that they are organic, for the most part fair-trade and increasingly biodynamic.

Jardins de Gaïa are now leaders in the French market for organic and fair-trade teas and herbal teas and are developing numerous projects abroad.

The company’s well-known speciality: original, sparkling and poetic “in-house recipes” created and produced in Alsace – are hand-made at the production site, or by local eSATS (assistance and service centres helping disabled people into work). Because the company works with raw materials which come, for the most part, from faraway countries, one of its primary objectives is to support the local economy and local jobs.

Another sign of its commitment, the “Militant Teas and Rooibos” range is one of its flagship lines and emblematic of the brand. Les Jardins de Gaïa gives a share of the profits from the sale of these products to its favourite charities for which these recipes were created. Whether it’s helping to set up young farmers, providing training courses for the protection of bees, helping to set up micro-enterprises or giving seeds to disadvantaged farmers -every tube or packet sold gives them a bit more support.

At the same time, a partnership committee works at the heart of the company. Every year it works to support various cultural and associative causes, for the benefit of children – or more generally for mankind and the planet, though donations or patronage.

Finally, the Tea House, on the Les Jardins de Gaïa premises, is dedicated to the ancestral art of preparing and drinking tea. At the crossroads between East and West, open to the world and to tea, it was designed to promote contemplation among visitors. There are exhibitions of photos, paintings, ceramics, etc., and traditional Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies are regularly organised in the tea pavilion.

In this calm and restful place, the visitor has the opportunity to taste delicious blends, some of which are unique, and bring the magic home by exploring the range available in the shop. Truly an exotic and Zen journey in the heart of Alsace!

See their website here.

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Last week, WFTO-Europe participated in the European Development Days together with some of the most important decision makers and advocates in the world: Presidents (from Norway, Ghana, Senegal, Bolivia and other countries), UN and EU representatives, NGO representatives, young leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs and professors.

The agenda focused greatly on the involvement of the private sector and SMEs to achieve the Sustainable development Goals. Several sessions were on exactly this topic discussing how entrepreneurship in developing countries is one the ways to fight poverty and how sustainable business is the way to fight climate change.

Is was a true inspiration for the WFTO-Europe team to experience this market-based approach to development as it is in strong alignment with the Fair Trade Principles. The Fair Trade movement aims to fight poverty by creating opportunities to disadvantaged producers linking SDG 1 with Fair Trade Principle 1. Therefore, sessions focusing on creating economic development through agriculture were directly linked to our work in the Fair Trade Movement.

Other sessions focused on the power of female entrepreneurs in developing countries and the challenges they face with being women. These women do not only contribute to the achievement of SDG 1 and Fair Trade Principle 1, they also create gender equality and reduce discrimination achieving SDG 5 and Fair Trade Principle 6. At WFTO, we have recognized the huge potential of working women which let to our global campaign on International Women´s Day 2017 shedding lights on the unfair disadvantages women face in the workplace.

The agenda even included sessions specifically focusing on issues in the fashion industry and how to achieve the SDGs through ethical fashion. Sessions included representatives from Vivienne Westwood, Ethical Fashion Initiative, Danish Fashion Institute and Milano Fashion Institute. Here, we learned that ethical fashion is not only a trend, it is a new business model with an annual billion dollar potential that the industry must embrace, not only for profitable reasons but also to achieve sustainable development.

All in all, the European Development Days demonstrated that our “Trade Not Aid” approach is a strong way to create sustainable development emphasizing that the SDGs cannot be done without having everyone on board – we need the private sector as well as citizens.

Everyone plays a crucial role in the achievement of Sustainable Development. Become an Agent for Change and become a part of the achievement already today.

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Today marks the World Day against child labour. It is estimated that 215 million children worldwide are in work. This prevents the child from getting an education and from having time to play as an important part of a child’s mental development denying them their right to be a child. In half the cases of child labour, children even face physical and/or mental violence, lack of nutrition and care etc. This violates the children’s rights from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Fair Trade movement works towards eliminating child labour with Fair Trade Principle 5 which states “No Child Labour, No Forced Labour”. By doing this, the movement supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as SDG 4 “Quality Education” or 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production”. All members that are guaranteed by WFTO-Europe, adhere to the Fair Trade Principles ensuring that each principle is kept throughout their supply chain. When you buy products with the WFTO label, you are guaranteed that the product has not been produced and traded with child labour.

Child labour is especially an immense problem in the chocolate and textile industry where human rights and children’s rights violations in the productions are a well-known reality.

In the chocolate industry, this issue comes from child slavery in many West African cocoa fields. Here, children are victims of human trafficking and are forced to work long hours for no payment in the cocoa fields losing their childhood.

In the textile industry, the issue of child labour comes from consumer demands in Europe. With Fast Fashion, companies constantly seek to minimize prices resulting in the use of child workers who are willing to work for a low payment or who are being tricked into work.

A report by UNICEF and the Guardian explains that:

Child labour is a particular issue for fashion because much of the supply chain requires low-skilled labour and some tasks are even better suited to children than adults. In cotton picking, employers prefer to hire children for their small fingers, which do not damage the crop”.

 

When we buy cheap clothes in Europe, we do so at the sacrifice of children in the developing world. Therefore, we have the power to change these abuses.

Look out for our Fair Trade label next time you buy chocolate or textile products. For example, you can buy chocolate from GEPA or Bouga Cacao and clothing from People Tree, Elvang, Sari Fair Fashion or Re-Wrap.

You can help make an end to these devastating abuses. You can help protect children’s rights and achieve the SDGs. Everyone can be an Agent for Change with small efforts.

Be an Agent for Change by sharing this on Facebook or Twitter. Learn more about how to be an Agent for Change and make a real change to society here.

 

Photo credit (edited by WFTO-Europe): Adam Lai

Reflections by Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard, Assistant Communications Officer at WFTO-Europe

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Badou is a village in Western Togo close to Ghana, a region that produces cocoa and coffee. A company Gebana is investing here to raise awareness about organic and Fair Trade productions. Last summer, I came to Badou in an old mini bus full of locals. We drove up and down the twisty mountain roads. The roads went through rainforests passing small villages of clay houses. We arrived in the center of Badou and from there we had to take motor bikes on sandy bumpy paths, also through the rainforest. Every time we passed a small village, local children playing outside would sing “Yovo Yovo Bonsoir” and wave at us. We stopped by a mountain where we met a local man in tall rubber boots. The owner of a cocoa plant who was going to show us his small industry. We went by foot into the forest, passed rice fields and began to see cocoa- and banana trees. The owner proudly explained us when cocoa fruits were ripe and he plugged one that was too old. We had to cross small streams and rivers with slippery stones. As I was nervous, the owner carried me when crossing. On the way up, we met some local children and parents happily hiking. The farmer plugged mini bananas that cannot be compared to the ones I have had in Europe. On top, more families were playing by a waterfall. Many of them seemed to be visitors to the area. We went down again, where we saw a school and small tree houses in which the cocoa was stored.

I was with a friend, a local who was born and raised in Badou and had made his way to the capital of Togo, Lomé, to go to college. If it wasn’t for him, I would not have had the pleasure to have this unique experience. What was so special about this place was the feeling of community. Everyone took care of each other, everyone took care of me as their guest.

 

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I will probably never be able to visit the other kind of cocoa plants that West Africa hosts. The reality here is very different and so heart breaking that I could never be aloud access to witness it with my own eyes. But many of us have watched the documentary “the Dark Side of Chocolate” which reveals how cocoa slavery in Ivory Coast is a reality and not just a rumor as excused by companies and government officials.

In these cocoa plants, you will find human rights violations starting with child labor. Not only are children employed and prevented from going to school, losing their childhood. They work with unsafe tasks such as climbing trees, doing heavy lifting, working with dangerous tools and pesticides often injuring them. The work is hard and lasts all day. They are beaten and whipped. The food is cheap and doesn’t provide the right nutrition. They don’t receive any payment.

The documentary shows how children end in these situations through human trafficking. Children will be tricked into coming to work in the plants with fake promises, or the children’s families are tricked into selling their child. In some cases, children are even kidnapped. Those who try to escape are being beaten.

This is slavery.

Fair Trade chocolate is slave free chocolate. Fair Trade chocolate adheres to the Fair Trade Principles: No child labor, no forced labor, good working conditions, fair payment etc. You make a massive difference when you buy chocolate from organizations that are guaranteed by WFTO such as GEPA and Bouga Cacao.

Yet, I have too often heard people state that Fair Trade chocolate problematically is more expensive. Even though this is not always correct, I have to ask: You will might save a euro but does it provide more value?

There is slave chocolate and there is slave free chocolate. Which value do you prefer?

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Today is the World Fair Trade Day where Agents for Change from all over the world will honor Fair Trade, our way to achieve sustainable development. For this day, fair traders, consumers, policy makers and advocates form human chains to symbolize solidarity and commitment to people and the planet.

“This day we celebrate the world we wish to be! A world where people all over the world no matter who they are and what they do have the same rights and the same opportunities. We celebrate a world where fairness and global justice are the leading principles of political acts, a world where Fair Trade is the normal rule. But, in this day, we also go further than dreaming and show how all together we can make this fair world come true. We are the agent for change. With our actions, our daily choices we can shape the future of our society. Therefore, join our movement, our human chain and help us promote Fair Trade as a key driver of a fair and sustainable world” says the WFTO-Europe Coordinator, Francesca Giubilo.

This year, the WFTO network puts attention of how we are Agents for Change. We believe that everyone can be an Agent for Change and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We have the power to create change, not just as policy makers and advocates, but also as consumers with the small choices we make in our everyday life. When you support Fair Trade you help eliminate poverty, discrimination and other human rights violations.

Last night, WFTO-Europe celebrated this day together with other actors from the Fair Trade Movement at Café BOOM in Brussels. Here, we had the chance to form a human chain to show that we are all linked giving every one of us the power to be Agents for Change. We also took up the Fairtrade Challenge by sharing Fair Trade chocolate with all attendees.

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During the event, participants were asked how they are Agents for Change. Participants came with a wide range of examples on how you can be an Agent for Change even with small efforts. People stated that they buy Fair Trade products and presents, attend Fair Trade events and support Fair Trade campaigns. For example, an attendee answered that she is a “Fair Trade chocaholic” and another attendee claimed to have been drinking half of the global Fair Trade coffee production. But even in small doses, purchasing Fair Trade coffee has a massive impact. Learn why here.

Follow the World Fair Trade Day and Agents for Change campaign on our Twitter. Learn how you can be an Agent for Change and make a real difference in this world here.

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By Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard

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Over a month ago, Peru was hit by heavy floods due to climate changes. Heavy rains resulting in over flooding that damaged houses and bridges resulting in the death of over 60 people killed and making thousands of people homeless.

Our member FairMail works in Peru where they provide photography classes to disadvantaged teenagers, old enough to adhere to the laws of child labour. FairMail uses the teenager’s pictures in their production of cards and give the photographer 50% of the profit made from the picture. In this way, teenagers can finance their own education and contribute to the household finances.

Due to the floods, the office had to close for two weeks whilst the roads were closed resulting in cancelled classes. But this did not stop FairMail’s dream of “a world in which ALL adolescents have equal opportunities to educate and develop themselves.”

Two teenager’s homes were sadly severely damaged with a lack of money for reconstruction in the family. So instead of carrying out photography classes, the FailMail team organized support meetings and help with reconstruction of the damaged houses. They also dedicated a day to help distribute water, food and clothes to different areas.

We had to cancel FairMail’s photography lessons in the days after the flooding as the office wasn’t accessible. But even when the roads re-opened it felt self-centered to have the teenagers work on their photographic ideas when there was so much human suffering so close by. FairMail founder Janneke came up with the idea to grasp the opportunity to open the teenagers’ world to the opportunity to volunteering for the flood relief efforts that were taking place. For example by helping out at the logistics center were the emergency aid was being distributed. Afterwards all the team members shared in the group how they had been affected. When Angelica and Julissa told about the damage to their homes the other FairMail teenagers immediately suggested to go and help them out with the start of the reconstruction efforts. As director of FairMail it makes me very proud that these teenagers reacted this way to help out their affected team members. This way showing that they truly internalized one of FairMail’s main values: goodpanionship.” Peter den Hond from FairMail said.

This case shows how committed WFTO-Europe members are to work better world, and how everyone can be a part of creating change.

Do you want to help create change too? Learn how you can become an Agent for Change.

 

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By Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard

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World Fair Trade Day (WFTDay) is approaching and we are excited for this at WFTO-Europe! This year, we will celebrate this with other actors from our network and from the Fair Trade Movement. Here, we will form a human chain to symbolize how we together can make the world fairer.

 

We are all linked

We believe that everyone can be an Agent for Change and that can all create change together. The WFTO-Europe network strives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) through the 10 Fair Trade Principles. We work to eradicate poverty by providing opportunities to disadvantaged producers, and we work to fight global warming by ensuring productions that respect the environment. But we cannot do it without you. Without customers that buy Fair Trade products, Fair Trade cannot exist. Therefore, every purchasing decision you make has an impact.

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Be an Agent for Change

Every little effort counts. When you buy Fair Trade chocolate you ensure not to support child labor which too often is the reality in cocoa plants. When you buy Fair Trade coffee you ensure not to support unfair wages and dehumanizing working conditions which too often characterizes how it is to work in coffee plants. When you buy Fair Trade clothes, you ensure consideration of the planet and gender equality which are often sacrificed in the textile industry.

It is not easy to make the world better but with a little effort everyone can contribute to this change. If you are interested in photography, you might find FairMail interesting. If you are interested in beauty, check out Fair Trade beauty products for example from Karethic. If you are interested in arts, surely some of our members that import handcrafts like Siyabonga will be interesting for you.

You can certainly find relations to Fair Trade in your daily life. Check our different members to find products that are interesting to you, or see which members are close to you in your own country. You can also see if you live in a Fair Trade town and how to support this.

If you have difficulties relating, ask yourself and learn about the story behind your clothes next time you get dressed. Ask and learn where your food comes from next time you eat a meal. Or even ask where the kitchen towels come from when doing the dishes. Consider how it has been produced and which impact it has compared to alternative products and brands.

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Together we can create a fairer world

Even the smallest things that we normally take for granted mean something. Join us as an Agent for Change and celebrate World Fair Trade Day with us! Stay updated on our Facebook and Twitter to see how you can be an Agent for Change and be a part of creating a real difference in the world.

 

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By Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard

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Yesterday, the 27th of April, the European Parliament adopted the report “EU flagship initiative on the garment sector”. In the lights of the Rana Plaza Anniversary, the report encourages the EU to engage in actions of solving the alarming level of human rights abuses in the garment sector with a focus on three dimensions: Decent work and social standards, transparency and traceability, and a legally binding framework.

This is a positive step towards a fairer garment sector supply chain and a fairer world to people and the planet. Only with a transparent and traceable supply chain, can we ensure that our clothes are produced with integrity.

To promote this, an event was held on the 26th at the European Parliament, “Remembering Rana Plaza – how can we create fair and sustainable supply chains in the garment sector?”. WFTO-Europe was present with colleagues from the Fair Trade family and other actors such as Sarah Ditty, Head of policy at Fashion Revolution and Amirul Haque Amin, President of National Garment Workers Federation in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The event turned out highly successful considering that the majority of the votes were for adopting the report.

In alignment with the report, the Clean Clothes Campaign and 79 organizations, including WFTO-Europe, called on the European Commission to make it legally binding for companies to make their production details public. Read the letter “High time for the European Commission to impose transparency in the garment supply chain” here.

The events took place during Fashion Revolution Week where consumers ask “Who Made My Clothes?” across the world to stress the critical need for transparency in the garment supply chain. Read more about WFTO-Europe’s connection to the revolution here.

The Fashion Revolution is growing and making an enormous impact every day, but it relies on the help from all kinds of actors: organizations, companies, consumers and politicians.

Get involved and join the revolution! See how here.