Charity, business, the NE and ethics are 4 of our favourite things, so when Traidcraft, the UK’s leading Fairtrade organisation got in touch to ask if we’d be interested in visiting their Gateshead HQ for their first ever bloggers’ event, we said YES!
Since it’s launch in 1979 (in what was to became my favourite student haunt- Newcastle’s WHQ) Traidcraft has fought poverty through trade; practising, promoting and pioneering approaches that help poor people in developing countries to transform their lives. Working with over 100 producer groups in over 30 developing countries, the Gateshead-based organisation supplies the UK’s widest range of Fairtrade products.
The stories we heard about the life-changing impact of Traidcraft practices internationally was moving, humbling and inspiring. Since my visit to their offices, I’ve been really struck about my responsibilities as a consumer, and the impact we can have when we buy reflectively. Supporting ethical businesses not only allows us to vote with our feet and support those who need it (rather than lining already bulging corporate wallets), it also has made me appreciate and enjoy my purchases in a new way.
One story of how Traidcraft works with coffee farmers particularly struck me. “We don’t just go to the mountain”, says Grocery Product Manager Rachael Colquhoun, as she describes how they find and support some of the most isolated and vulnerable communities across the world, “We go to the mountain and get right up to the top of it!” This isn’t just a lady who loves coffee (don’t we all?!); this is a lady who is full of love and delight at the impact Traidcraft has, as it sources and buys coffee beans from some of the most poverty-striken groups in the world.
The flexibility, concern and respect that Traidcraft show to their suppliers is illustrated by their work with this group. They originally started to work with the people of the Cuchumatan mountains in Guatemala, when they were looking for more honey suppliers for their popular Geobars. With 49% of the country’s population living under the poverty line, this community, up a remote mountain, are particularly vulnerable. After identifying a great product, Traidcraft worked with the community to help them attain certifications for their honey. Their honey was so delicious, they eventually decided to bottle it and sell it directly to consumers, further augmenting the farmers’ income.
A few years later, during a visit, the team noticed that the honey bees were pollinating Arabica coffee bushes. Realising that the higher Arabica coffee grows, the more superior the coffee, Traidcraft again worked with the community to become cerified Fairtrade coffee growers. They worked together to produce a freeze dried range from their lofty-growing beans. With coffee sales and farmer numbers growing year upon year, Traidcraft are now in a position to sell the coffee as a roast and ground product. This coffee is winging it’s way here from Guatemala as I type and will be available to buy from October!
The profits from the honey and coffee sales have helped start to lift this community from poverty. It has helped invest in equipment to support more members of the community into employment, educate their children, create an emergency finance fund to help with unexpected costs like trips to the hospital and provide low-interest loans. They’ve also created a honey and coffee collection station half-way down the mountain to increase efficiency and help make them more accessible to other businesses,
I can’t wait to buy a packet next month and sit down to enjoy a cup, reflecting on the life changing journey the Cuchumatan community have been on since Traidcraft climbed their mountain to buy a bit of honey. The increased profits will pay to improve the quality of their homes (which are made of mud and get soggy in the rain!) and provide jobs in the are in order to keep the community together. I love how Traidcraft have worked sensitively, proactively and ambitiously to drive forward trade opportunities for these people.
The business also supports many other communities, including some in Nepal, as they struggle to get back onto their feet following the devastating earthquake in 2015. We watched a video in which a factory owner describes his gratitude for Traidcraft’s continued support, giving him and his workers hope. When you buy Traidcraft’s products, you are rebuilding broken communities, stilling fear and giving hope. What a gift?!
Not only do your Traidcraft purchases do good; they ARE good! Very good indeed! My friend Elizabeth claims the Traidcraft tea is the best she has ever drunk. Every snack and food item I’ve tasted is high-quality and delicious, and all the clothes and gifts I’ve bought have all been high-quality and beautiful. And it’s no surprise, as they’re made by people who are very proud of what they do.
The autumn/winter range has just launched, so now is a perfect time to have a browse online or at your local stockist. There’s food and drink, homeware, cleaning products, toys, clothes and accessories.
Every year I covet one of their beautiful nativity scenes. They also have an impressive range of Christmas cards, wrapping paper (some of which is made by their friends in Nepal), beautiful wooden toys and stocking fillers. I really love the Traidcraft chocolate range. Not only is it decadent and delicious and Fairtrade, all of the packaging is also fully biodegradable. While I enjoyed one of their bars I was struck by how much waste our snacks often produce, and so that particular treat tasted all the sweeter!
The products are sold by more than 400 retailers nationwide and you can also browse the mail order catalogue or buy online. If you’re in Gateshead, do pop into the outlet shop on the Team Valley. There are some fantastic products (returns, end of line etc) at amazing prices. I picked up a beautiful, vibrant, organic, fair trade shirt reduced to only £7.50, as well as a striking necklace for the same price. Last year my mum treated me to a scarf, which is one of my favourite garments as it’s so beautiful, warm and soft.
Please do have a browse at the catalogue and consider supporting this local business as it supports vulnerable, gifted, creative and industrious friends across the world, providing them with jobs, a fair price, hope and a future.
If you enjoyed this blog check out our blog about Bensham Food Coop, a way to support local communities enduring financial hardship. And if you’re planning a visit to Traidcraft HQ, check out our blog about Bensham Grove, a nearby heritage treasure.
Talbot Jones Risk Solutions is a family-run insurance brokerage specialising in SMEs, Professions and Charities nationwide. Do get in touch if you’d value a free insurance review, quotation or advice, and they’d be more than happy to help.