From water bottles to chocolate, athletic equipment to office supplies, over the past decade many companies have developed fair trade and ethically sourced products. Companies that did not originally incorporate these practices into their business models are increasingly changing their operating principles. A large part of this trend is due to the purchasing power of consumers, who are concerned with the environmental, social, and legal impact of their spending.
Fair trade (as defined by the Fair Trade Foundation) is about providing reasonable prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and equitable terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. It is about improving the position of producers within the poorest countries so that they are able to sell their goods on a global market and build a stronger, more vital economy.
Fair trade is overseen globally by the Fair Trade Labelling Organization (FLO) with sub-groups for countries and regions. However, in September 2011, Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) announced that it unilaterally decided to resign from its membership in the FLO. They also intend to make changes to some of the criteria for determining which products are certified as fair trade.
The main point of contention that caused the split was a difference of opinion regarding the definition of hired labor, particularly within the coffee industry. Traditionally, fair trade coffee certification only included products from smallholder farms, usually from families who own a plot of land within a cooperative and farm it themselves. FTUSA is currently looking to extend fair trade certification to estate and plantation coffee farmers and has a pilot project in Brazil. Various American organizations, including United Students for Fair Trade, have strongly opposed these changes.
FTUSA has also announced a new ‘Multiple Ingredients Product Policy’ whereby products that are at least 20% fair trade will carry a new type of fair tradelogo (right). This change is contentious, as many view this measure as one that “waters down” international fair tradestandards.
Regardless of the controversy, fair trade certification is still a useful way for consumers to guarantee that companies are meeting fair trade guidelines. Currently, there are three fair trade logos, including the “multiple ingredients” logo. When shopping in the United States, look for the logo on the left, which is located on the label or packaging of the product. If outside the United States, look for the logo on the right.
To find a listing of fair trade products, check out Fair trade USA. They have products sorted by type, from apparel and sports equipment to honey, coffee, and spirits. Fair Trade USA also has an interactive map which includes the countries that are helped by fair trade practices and a section with detailed impact reports on various industries.
The Fair trade Resourcing Network (FTRN) recently launched an interactive map of the United States called I Spot Fair Trade. This map allows users to zoom into the location of the stores, making it easy to find fair trade dealers in your community. FTRN also has many resources on their main website, including event listing, reading and film recommendations, and how to become further involved in the movement.
Additionally, there are several products and stores that retail across the country. Ten Thousand Villages is a national chain where fair trade home goods, soaps, and artwork is sold. Divine Chocolate and Honest Tea are both fair trade brands that widely sell in grocery and convenience stores. You can order fair trade coffee at groundsforchange.com.
Other resources that are not fair trade specific, but useful for determining corporate responsibility are Free2Work, a free Android or iPhone application, and B Corporation, a non-profit that certifies businesses as socially and environmentally responsible. Free2Work allows users to scan product barcodes and provides ratings of brands and their trafficking and labour policies. B Corporation has a listing of certified companies here, which are required to meet rigorous standards and many of which are fair trade.
To some extent, what you buy is a reflection of who you are; your preferences and tastes. Use these fair trade and ethical consumerism resources to reflect your beliefs.
Two days ago saw the Global Poverty Project UK, with the aid of Bill Gates, Hans Rosling and The Co-operative, launch one of its most ambitious and exciting initiatives to date. Yet, whilst Bill was reading his Annual Letter to the captive audience, a small group of students at university campuses across the country were quietly making a stand against extreme poverty.
The centrepiece of The Global Poverty Project is 1.4 Billion Reasons, a ground-breaking presentation that powerfully communicates the challenges and opportunities around tackling extreme poverty, working as a platform to inspire and enable individuals to become actively involved in ending poverty; it is this vision that drives everything we do.
Since its UK launch in 2010, over 36,000 people in the country have seen the presentation, many of which have been university students. Its success would not have been possible without the amazing hosts who have worked tirelessly to promote the presentation as well as continuing the momentum long after by campaigning on the key issues raised in 1.4 Billion Reasons.
Wanting to find a way to repay our gracious hosts and engage them further in our fight to end extreme poverty - Lunch Below the Line was born.
Lunch Below the Line enabled hosts to have a platform to promote and raise awareness of the great work they do but also to incorporate the message of The Global Poverty Project’s upcoming campaign: Live Below the Line.
What’s 33p got to do with extreme poverty?
Most of us wouldn’t bat an eyelid at spending over £15 every day on food. But can you imagine reducing your food and drink spend to just 33p for one meal? On Wednesday hundreds of people across the UK chose to do just that - they ate Lunch Below the Line.
Wednesday’s event kicked off 4 months of campaigning for Live Below the Line, which challenges the British public to cut their spending on food and drink to just £1 a day for five days in May. The campaign aims to increase awareness of the 1.4 billion people around the world currently living in extreme poverty who must survive on less than £1 each day for all their needs.
Lunch Below the Line occurred simultaneously at 5 university campuses nationwide and saw the students serve the 33p meals, which are representative of what someone living in extreme poverty may eat. The event was a great success and caused a buzz and excitement around the campaign.
Whether it is a small team of people selling 33p meals or Bill Gates encouraging a mass audience to take action in ending extreme poverty, to see that people are so committed, passionate and determined to be part of the grassroots movement to end extreme poverty is truly inspiring.
Thank you to Amnesty International at the University of Hertfordshire?, Engineers Without Borders at the University of Birmingham, Friends of MSF at Oxford University and the University of Sussex, and Medsin at Newcastle University for your amazing work running Lunch Below the Line and helping to raise awareness about extreme poverty.
To sign up for the Live Below the Line challenge or to receive more information about the campaign, please visit www.livebelowtheline.org.uk.
Bill, who is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will share his vision for tackling extreme poverty by discussing his Annual Letter with an audience of students, international development experts, and Global Poverty Ambassadors.
We are thrilled that Bill Gates has chosen the launch of the Global Poverty Ambassadors to deliver his annual letter. His vision and commitment is an inspiration for these Ambassadors who will mobilise their own communities in the fight to end extreme poverty.
Since the beginning of 2010, we have been taking the story of progress fighting extreme poverty to schools, conferences, communities and universities around the UK.
It's an inspiring story and 2012, we will identify, train and mobilise more than 100 Global Poverty Ambassadors to take this story even further across the UK.
These remarkable individuals are leaders in their communities – from universities, schools, businesses, faith group and communities. We’ve been searching high and low across the UK to identify these leaders to be selected as an Ambassador. They are an incredible, passionate and diverse group of people who will be champions in the movement against extreme poverty in 2012; school teachers, faith leaders, students, businesspeople and many more.
They will be trained to tell the story of success and raise awareness of the reality of extreme poverty through delivering a series of 1.4 Billion Reasons presentations and campaigning actions.
We’ve already had more than 200 applications, and the first 75 selected Ambassadors will be seeing Bill Gates and Hans Rosling on Wednesday.
Becoming a Global Poverty Ambassador is a fantastic opportunity for people from all walks of life to get involved in raising awareness for the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. If you’re in the UK and you would like to become an Ambassador, recommend an Ambassador or book an Ambassador to come and speak at your business, group or school, you can do so here. Applications will be closing on 10 February 2012.
We’re thrilled to have partnered with The Co-operative in making the Global Poverty Ambassador initiative possible, especially during the UN International Year of Co-operatives. We’ve been working with the team at The Co-operative in developing the program, and it’s great to see that they are doing more than ever to help tackle global poverty, through co-operative support, ethical trade, ethical finance and campaigning.
Already their work has benefited millions of people across the developing world. The Co-operative believes that together, their members can help ensure lasting change. You can find out more about the work of The Co-operative in celebrating the International Year of Co-operatives 2012 at http://www.co-operative.coop/2012
Wherever you are in the world, I encourage you to watch the live-stream on Wednesday, join the conversation on Twitter with the #billsletter hashtag, and if you’re in the UK, I hope you apply to become one of our Global Poverty Ambassadors.
The NUS Student Activism Conference this Saturday, 19th November will be the UK’s biggest ever student activism conference. Student Activism 2011 “aims to bring together student activists from across the political spectrum to learn, share and inspire a generation of campaigners.”
There are 1.4 billion reasons why the Global Poverty Project is excited to participate in this conference this year.
1.4 billion people around the world live on less than £1 a day. That's a figure adjusted to purchasing power - so it actually means people living in extreme poverty can at most afford enough rice, vegetables and cooking fuel to make two basic meals. No meat, no frills, nothing fancy - just two basic meals.
Then there's 7p left over for everything else in life - housing, transportation, education, clothes, healthcare.
That 1.4 billion figure is frightening - impossible to comprehend. That could stop us in our tracks - the challenge is too big, the mountain too great to climb. But there are two things when we talk about extreme poverty that are key realisations: the first is that it is about personal and individual stories; and second that it is entirely about choices and decisions.
The personal and individual stories of extreme poverty
Extreme poverty is about Joel Wiza, someone we met in Zimbabwe, who digs roots for a living. He celebrates the days he earns $2, so that he can put food on the table and maybe even buy something nice for his wife. Joel worries constantly about his three children contracting cholera, which has been sweeping through the community, because he doesn't have the money or access to adequate healthcare he needs to ensure they survive.
But when we talk about people living in extreme poverty, not all of their stories are filled with sadness.
As there are stories of Joel and many individuals like him, there are also thousands upon thousands of stories of people like Tukaeje. Tukaeje, from Tanzania, used to be so poor that she used to go to school barefoot. With the support of a great organisation, Camfed, today she is a businesswoman and a leader in her community who distributes the money she earns selling clothes to ensure that dozens of struggling children will one day have the opportunities that she now has. You can watch her amazing story below.
And that's where choice comes in.
It's a matter of choice
People living in extreme poverty have no power to exercise choice, to make decisions and have control over their own lives. I mean just imagine if you were responsible for that £1 a day for your family and a member of your family became ill? Would you pay for them to go to the doctor or would you pay to feed your family? If you pay for the doctor, then your family goes hungry. If you feed your family, you can only hope that your brother, your sister, your mother or father – whoever it is – gets better.
I couldn't make that choice.
But luckily we never really have to. We have the power to make decisions about what we do, the actions we take. Our choices can be positive - about hope, opportunity and the future. Our motivations and individual stories of extreme poverty will be unique, but we can make one choice that is the same: to join the movement to end extreme poverty.
The actions can be small or they can be massive. They all move us forward.
The Global Poverty Project is going to be at the Student Activism Conference this weekend presenting attendees with two simple ways to make a real tangible difference: to help write more stories like Tukaeje's.
This is a guest blog by dotHIV, an initiative to fight HIV and AIDS using the power of the Internet.
A revolution is upon us!
The Internet is about to change: Soon, the ICANN (an authority which oversees all online-name rights) will open an application window for new top-level-domains. Only during this short time span, applications for new domain-endings like .canon or .berlin can be handed in. We want to use this opportunity for a groundbreaking form of social business - and submit an application for the domain-ending .hiv
Why a domain-ending?
Because a global problem needs a global solution. AIDS kills more than 2 million people every year – but 2 billion people use the Internet every day. We want to use the power of the Internet to bring the virus back into the mind of the people and create a completely new way of generating donations by selling the domain-ending .hiv as an interesting product. Our goal is to create a new and unique form of non-profit business rather than a conventional charity.
So how does .hiv work?
It works similar to the 'normal' red ribbon: A company buys the domain-ending '.hiv' to show solidarity with the fight against the virus. But whereas the red ribbon is a conventional charity-item, .hiv is a new form of social business: The donated money fills a pool of funds and with every click on a .hiv-website, the Internet users redirect a small amount of money to a charity of their choice. Of course the content of the site remains the same: google.com and google.hiv will not differ.
The donations are distributed on a website, where initiatives and organizations from all over the world can gather support by presenting their work. Transparency and expediency are ensured, because the Internet community decides, which projects should be supported. An independent board of experts will supervise the process.
Why do we need your pledges?
The ICANN will only open the application window for 2 months and once it closes, it will not open again for years. Now is our chance! Since we are a social business start-up, we need your help to get funding money: Approximately $200.000 are necessary to cover the application fee and technical operations. Once the application is approved and enough .hiv-domains are sold within one year, we expect to be able to pay back ten times the amount through donations to HIV-projects all over the world.
Who is behind .hiv?
We are a small team and have been working hard on getting our idea started for one year now. Some of us work in an advertising agency in Hamburg/Germany, others have worked in the non-profit-sector or in online-fundraising.
What can you do?
By establishing .hiv, we want to anchor the awareness for and the fight against HIV and AIDS in the cornerstones of the Internet and create a never seen form of social business. If you want to become a part of this idea which could change the world pledge to this cause and help us establish an innovative and completely new channel for generating donations for the fight against HIV and AIDS.
• Visit our website and facebook page and support us with your vote
• We are also sourcing funds for the application process on the crowd-sourcing platform IndieGoGo
• Please use any form of communication and help us spread the message to make this idea become reality
Thanks for your support!
We tried to explain a big idea in a few words. If you have questions or want to give us your feedback, check our website dothiv.org or write us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can just leave us a comment on facebook.com/dothiv.