On the 18th, 19th and 20th of October the 13th International Fair Trade Towns Conference was hosted in Cardiff, Wales at the picturesque Cardiff City Hall. Wales is the world’s first Fair Trade Nation and Cardiff the first Fair Trade National Capital, and the commitment from government and policy-makers was evident from the very beginning of the conference. The morning of Saturday the 19th, the first full day of conference, all were welcomed by Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, who spoke of the national commitment of Wales to Fair Trade and to the SDGs, which is reflected in “The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015” – the first time a nation has enshrined the SDGs into law.

Erinch Sahan from WFTO Global also delivered a keynote on Alternative Business Models present in the Fair Trade Movement and their importance for achieving both social and environmental sustainability through business. Mike Gidney, CEO of Fairtrade Foundation, then delivered his keynote on Living Income as a key priority in the movement.

The conference, in both plenary debates and workshops, focused heavily on both Living Income and the climate crisis as the key themes for discussion. The latter theme seemed particularly to be on people’s mind, with several raising a common concern for our movement: How can we justify trading products from very far away, considering the CO2 emissions and the negative impact on the climate crisis the transportation of these goods have? As speakers in the panel debate on the Future of Fair Trade reminded all: The people with whom we trade really, truly need the income Fair Trade provides them with; and the issue of emissions is not always so straightforward, since green beans produced in Kenya and imported into the EU has been shown to cause lower total emissions than green beans grown in heated greenhouses within the EU. A comment from the audience also pointed out that we should remind people that Fair Trade is not confined to trade: The movement is also heavily engaged in advocacy efforts towards making companies’ supply chains both fair and sustainable, and that production patterns need to be fair in order to be truly sustainable. Today, many young people do climate marches or demonstrate as part of the Extinction Rebellion Movement, and we need to demonstrate to them Fair Trade is also acting on the climate crisis by putting people and planet before profits.

The conference also featured a dinner party with celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Fairtrade International mark in the evening of the 19th, where all could admire the beautiful halls of the Temple of Peace – build after the end of World War I – where Fairtrade Wales also have their offices. As the conference wrapped up on the 20th, some history of the Fair Trade Towns campaign was shared, new members of the Steering Committee were presented, and the host of the next conference was announced: The Fair Trade Town of Quito, Ecuador, will host the 14th International Fair Trade Towns Conference in October 2020.

A final learning that we at WFTO-Europe have taken from the conference is in the words of Wales’ patron saint, Saint David: “Do all the little things” – and these will lead to bigger change.