Our aim is to re-connect the people who produce our products to the people who consume our products, and so wherever possible we are building direct links between our enterprise groups in the UK and farmers in developing countries.
The connection between global and local is a key part of the our philosophy.
Why is this important?
The producers (farmers) that we work with from developing countries grow things that we can't grow in this country – such as cocoa beans for chocolate, coffee beans, rice, tea, cotton, shea beans for cosmetic products and other raw materials. The challenge they typically face is not being able to earn enough money from these raw materials because the international system of trade works against them. It leaves them living in poverty.
Most producers don't want or need charity or aid, but they do want and need the opportunity to get a decent price for what they grow and, even better, the chance to carry out more of the processing in their own country, so they are not just exporting raw crops. We are trying to help by re-connecting producers communities here - the people who buy their produce; and by agreeing fair prices, and keeping the supply chain as short as possible.
One of our underlying principles and aspirations is trade justice - enabling producers in developing countries to participate equitably in international trade and make an income from what they produce. Unfortunately for millions of the world's farmers, the income they gain from their produce is not enough to feed their families, get health care or send their children to school.
Ever bought a cup of coffee from one of the big coffee shop chains? How much did you pay? Probably around £2 or £3. It's affordable, but did you ever wonder how much money the farmer earned for sowing, growing and harvesting the coffee beans used to make that cup of coffee?
According to the Black Gold Foundation, Ethiopian coffee farmers receive an average of 2 - 3 pence for that £2 - 3 cup of coffee, barely enough to cover the cost of production. That's a big difference between price paid by the consumer and price received by the producer! This difference means that coffee farmers are struggling to survive.
Global and Local
But not all of our products are produced in developing countries, and another of our aims is to support local production. Wherever possible we are working with local suppliers, including our own enterprise groups, to either produce new products or add value to the produce supplied by developing country farmers.
Featured Producer Partner - Tea, Just Change India
Just Change is a community led initiative that seeks to regain power in markets by directly linking producers, consumers and investors in a network that is mutually beneficial. Started in India by the Adivasis of the Gudalur Valley of Tamilnadu in response to the crash in tea prices, it quickly spread to other community groups in India. It now functions through two arms: The Just Change Trust and the Just Change India Producer Company.
Just Change has developed an alternative way of doing business allowing producers, consumers and investors to work together in mutually beneficial ways – thus rebuilding the notion of community and regaining power in the marketplace. Just Change links the local and global, goes beyond earlier initiatives like the Fair Trade movement and producer cooperatives that have tried to address the problem of unfair markets. Rather than focus solely on getting better prices for producers, Just Change takes control of the market by creating the infrastructure for producers and consumers to trade directly with each other.
So it is not just about prices alone – it is more about conducting our trade and managing our economy in a way that gives power back to communities. We are building an economic system that is founded upon principles of justice and equity; one which is driven by human values and not invisible market forces and the pursuit of wealth at any cost.