The Fairtrade logo has become a global symbol of ethical trade and is growing in popularity. But is it just a marketing ploy, doing more for the image of the shops than the three million farmers supplying them?
Products which claim to be ‘ethical’ are growing in popularity and social responsibility has become big business. Yet despite the guarantees made by Fairtrade, exploitation of the brand is difficult to control and many producers are still living a meagre existence. Coffee prices are at a record high but, “the revenue from growing coffee is not enough for a whole family”, says one Nicaraguan farmer. The Fairtrade label may provide a big selling point for a company’s products, but if it does really offer Third World businesses the best deal, then should it be left to consumer choice to buy such products? Andrea Reitinger, a spokeswoman for EZA Fairer Trade, argues: “Human rights and the future of the planet are much too important to be left to choice”.