Earlier this year, Nestle announced that from October, KitKats would no longer carry the Fairtrade Mark.
A campaign was launched involving the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, the Fairtrade Foundation’s National Campaigner Committee, Fair Trade Wales and others to ‘Keep KitKat Fairtrade’. An online petition was launched by Joanna Pollard, a Fair Trade activist from Yorkshire, which gained nearly 300,000 signatures. In fact, along with a similar petition by the Co-operative Party, the 300,000 mark was exceeded.
Here are 5 Fair Trade lessons we’ve learned from the campaign.
1. Big global companies and brands are an important means of achieving Fair Trade sales but they are not part of the Fair Trade movement. These large global companies and brands are important in achieving increased quantity of sales of Fair Trade products but they are not invested in Fair Trade principles in the same way as 100% Fair Trade businesses. We need to think about how we welcome and encourage big companies to do the right thing but don’t become reliant on them to achieve our goals.
2. The Fairtrade cocoa market is undergoing changes but isn’t in decline. Nestle’s decision on KitKat is disappointing but others are increasing purchasing of Fairtrade cocoa. Fairtrade is in a strong position as its cocoa volumes were up by 23% in 2019. Fair Trade is leading the way on living incomes in the cocoa industry. Fairtrade International must have always known that raising their Fairtrade standards for cocoa would increase costs for businesses. Those companies that don’t look beyond their bottom line would find this challenging – that’s a good thing. The Fair Trade movement needs to be challenging businesses to do more.
3. Sometimes you don’t get everything you want from a campaign but that doesn’t mean efforts were wasted. While Nestle didn’t ultimately change its decision on Kitkat and Fairtrade, the campaign helped to provide cocoa farmers with a degree of additional financial security and improved transparency about financial payments. Nestle agreed to match the Fairtrade Minimum Price for the next two years. Although only for two years, this could be seen as an important short term win for the campaign and farmers as the market price was lower than that of the Fairtrade Minimum on the day of the switchover (1 October) and has remained lower. After Joanna Pollard’s meeting with Nestle in July and questions from the public, Nestle released more information about their version of the ‘premium’ and how it would be paid to farmers. It is less than the Fairtrade Premium, but more than they initially planned to pay.
4. Fair Trade isn’t a given success – it is work in progress. Many of us involved in Fair Trade will have experienced someone at some point asking us why we bother: “Fair Trade products are everywhere anyway… you’ve won your fight, why are you still going on about it?… there are more important things to be worried about these days…” and so on. The KitKat decision tells us that we have to keep making our arguments. It would be very easy for Fair Trade to go into decline if it wasn’t for grassroots activists and campaigning. Fair Trade is as relevant now as ever. We will not successfully deal with the climate emergency unless we get a fair trading system. Global inequality and poverty fuel the climate emergency. Fair Trade needs to be at the centre of the global answer to the global emergency.
5. Fair Trade is strongest when farmers and workers have a platform to lead the campaign. The Keep KitKat Fairtrade campaign here was stronger because of the way it was informed and led by the case made by the representative organisation of the farmers in Cote D’Ivoire, the RICE Network. Also despite initial reluctance, Nestle agreed to speak to the RICE network. It is undoubtedly concerning that the decision by Nestle has led to a loss of decision-making power for farmers and their co-operatives and they will have less ability to decide for themselves how to invest payments made from their cocoa, particularly after short-term transitional payments are spent over the next two years. The key principle of empowerment remains central to the importance of Fair Trade.
Martin Rhodes, Chief Executive, Scottish Fair Trade Forum