Scotland for a fairer world – celebrating the transformative potential of Fair Trade

Fair trade is often seen as a consumer success story – a recognisable logo that has cut through to the mainstream. When you hear the phrase ‘Fair Trade’ what do you think of? Perhaps it’s your morning coffee, or a new cotton t-shirt, or a banana at lunchtime. Do we occasionally lose track of the stories behind those products, the very real difference that Fair Trade can make to individuals? Is it possible that when we hear ‘Fair Trade’, we should instead be thinking of the coffee farmer able to support their family, the garment worker no longer condemned to work in sweat-shop conditions, the craftsperson taking pride in their latest creation, as well as a new system that delivers real economic justice?

Photo: Koolskools
Dibella’s new ECO factory, “Sustainably Crafted Clothing” at Naranikuppam, Krishnigari District, Tamil Nadu, India. Almost all the factory’s power is harnessed through solar energy, and over 95% of the water used is recycled.

Alliance support

As an organisation with the strapline ‘Scotland for a fairer world’, it’s safe to say that Fair Trade is close to our heart. Fair Trade can play a huge part in reducing inequalities, central to the work of Scotland’s International Development Alliance and our members. We’re pleased to have supported Fair Trade, and the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, for many years, and extend congratulations to everyone involved in achieving and maintaining Fair Trade Nation status. Embedding an ethical approach to trade across government, businesses and individual consumers, could be transformative in creating a fairer society of good global citizens.

More than a logo

We realise that Fair Trade is more than just a consumer labelling initiative. It represents a model of economic justice. We see it as an essential tool to help us achieve a wellbeing economy, aligning to indicators in the National Performance Framework and therefore supporting attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Fair Trade movement has helped to campaign for sustainable livelihoods of producers in the global south and promote the relevancy of Fair Trade in tackling the climate crisis. Achievement of Fair Trade nation status demonstrates the commitment to economic justice from all parts of society.

Good global citizenship

But there’s always more to do. There remains an opportunity for growth in Fair Trade sales, and for more businesses and procurers to adopt ethical practices. Everyone has a role to play in this, civil society, business, public sector, parliamentarians, government officials and of course, consumers.

Photo: Koolskools
Fairtrade-organic cotton farmers in the cotton farming village of Thukkaram Nagar, Utnoor, in the Adilabad region of India.

At the Alliance we’ve been championing global citizenship over recent years, and we see Fair Trade as an easy win for individuals to demonstrate their global citizenship through every day decisions. At its most basic, ‘global citizenship’ is about individuals feeling connected to the world around them and being aware of social, political, environmental, and economic interconnections between local and global. It is also about actively considering how we use and share the earth’s resources fairly and uphold the human rights of all.

Furthering government support

The Scottish Government has also committed to being a good global citizen and, as such, we’d like to see further support for Fair Trade, which would also support our contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Specifically, we’ve called for the government to scale up Fair Trade growth through public procurement; behaviour change; upskilling key stakeholders; and improving supply chain access to Fair Trade products. Commitments to Fair Trade should also be solidified, ensuring environmental, ecological and social standards are guaranteed throughout supply chains, including through support for the global living wage initiative.

More measurements

The Alliance has been considering more broadly the ways in which Scotland can measure its impact on low and middle income countries. Whilst Fair Trade presents a positive ‘spillover’ of our actions, there are, of course, negative impacts of the decisions and actions we take here in Scotland on those overseas. We’re keen for the government to incorporate new ways of measuring these impacts within the National Performance Framework, which is how we assess Scotland’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

We could better understand the impacts that Scottish businesses have overseas, for example, by including a measurement of the number of businesses signed up to Fairtrade certification, or other human rights and ethical procurement initiatives. This would help give an initial gauge of our impact on low income countries, and give a meaningful way of tracking progress.

Ten years as a Fair Trade Nation holds much to celebrate, but there is more that all of us could be doing to work towards ‘a Scotland for a fairer world’. The Alliance looks forward to supporting the Scottish Fair Trade Forum and the movement in achieving these ambitions.

Louise Davies, Head of Policy, Communications & Digital Engagement, Scotland’s International Development Alliance 

22 February 2023