Source fairly for people and planet or risk losing it

By Will Browning, the Fairtrade Foundation’s Head of Partnership Development

Striving for sustainability within hospitality remains a pressing issue for all leaders within the sector and rightly so, with 70% of consumers keeping sustainability in mind when deciding where and what to eat, according to CGA. But from food waste to carbon emissions to plastic use, the challenges facing a business within their own four walls are numerous. It’s no wonder that thinking beyond this, to other issues such as sustainability within your wider supply chain, can feel like a monumental task.

However, the truth is that sustainability throughout all aspects of your business – beyond your four walls – is important to customers too. Spending on ethical food and drink rose from £5.4bn to £14.1bn between 2010 and 2020 according to Co-op’s Ethical Consumerism Report, showing an increased interest in sustainable consumption amongst UK consumers. This increased interest has been evident in the hospitality space too, with CGA’s Food Insights Report showing that 69% of consumers state that it is important to them that food and drink is ethically sourced.

Beyond the opportunity ethical sourcing offers in reaching conscious consumers, ensuring you support the farmers and workers who grow the food and drink we all love makes sense for business stability as well. For example, recent studies have shown that an estimated 50% of the land currently used for farming coffee may well be unsuitable by 2050 because of climate change. As well as taking action on climate change, farmers need support to adapt now. The pressure agricultural communities are feeling has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and now the global cost-of-living crisis, making production costs unsustainable. As future generations turn away from farming – the average age of coffee farmers is now over 50, for instance – coupled with the impacts of climate change, there is a real risk to future supply security of products that businesses depend on.

These issues underpin the theme of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight: the climate crisis and the increasing threat it poses to some of our most beloved food products and the livelihoods of the farmers and agricultural workers who grow them.

On 28th February, Fairtrade will launch the ‘Endangered Aisle’, a pop-up experience in Shoreditch, open to the public until the 2nd of March. The ‘Endangered Aisle’ will look into the future and shine a light on the supermarket staples most at risk of becoming endangered from climate change, including coffee, bananas, and chocolate.

How can my company work with farmers and workers in our supply chain?

The first step to supporting producers is to understand the risks in your supply chain. Fairtrade recently launched the world’s first ever Risk Map, with input from producer organisations across multiple commodities, to comprehensively show all the biggest human rights and environmental risks in the countries where Fairtrade works.

Fairtrade’s Risk Map

By choosing Fairtrade over the alternative at your business, or personally making the switch to using Fairtrade ingredients or products, you are choosing to stand with the farmers and workers in your supply chain and their communities in tackling those risks you identify. Fairtrade producers follow a series of social, economic, and environmental standards that help to ensure farmers use more environmentally sustainable practices and receive fairer prices and numerous benefits when they sell their products as Fairtrade. The price difference to consumers between Fairtrade certified goods and the alternative is often small, if any – Fairtrade bananas cost as little as 1p more – yet the impact it has on communities is life-changing.

Is there anything else I need to know?

There is a vast range of Fairtrade products available, with over 6,000 certified products in the UK alone. Although probably most famous for coffee, bananas, and chocolate – there are many opportunities to build sustainability into your sourcing decisions; from Fairtrade wine sourced from South Africa or South America, to choosing Fairtrade cotton for your staff uniforms. We work with a host of suppliers, so reaching out to the team can be a good place to start.

When you choose a Fairtrade product, you know that farmers are protected by the Fairtrade Minimum Price – the minimum that producers are paid when selling their products through Fairtrade.  Farmers also receive the Fairtrade Premium – an additional sum of money invested in business, social or environmental projects of their choosing such as community healthcare or housing improvements, freeing up their earnings for other basic needs. Through the simple choice of stocking Fairtrade products, your business is contributing to these sorts of projects.

Finally, think back to the ethical consumer, increasingly conscious of sustainability when deciding what to buy. According to CGA, 53% of consumers are more likely to order meals with quality and sustainability awards, and 40% of consumers think venues can do more to inform them about sustainability. Fairtrade is the most trusted and recognised ethical certification in the world, with 87% recognition in the UK and 78% caring about Fairtrade (Kantar, Q4 2022). For hospitality businesses looking to have a real impact in their supply chains and communicate to consumers in a simple and effective way, choosing Fairtrade is a great option.

If you would like more information, or to understand how working with Fairtrade can support on your sustainability journey, please reach out to [email protected]

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