Fair traders in Surrey unite for Fairtrade Fortnight
PUBLISHED: 20:10 23 February 2015 | UPDATED: 20:21 23 February 2015
With Fairtrade Fortnight just around the corner, Andrea Cowan checks out some of the Surrey-based companies that have ethical trading at the heart of their business
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2015
We are used to seeing the ‘Fairtrade’ mark on food stuffs, a labelling system indicating that a range of specific international trading standards have been met. But recent research by the Fairtrade Foundation discovered that whilst 78% of the public recognise the logo, less than half of us actively choose these products.
In a bid to turn this around, Fairtrade Fortnight, running from Monday February 23 to Sunday March 8, will focus on the impact of fair trading, with events, food fairs and tastings taking place all over the country. Raising awareness is vital, as Surrey-based jewellery designer Jon Dibben explains: “By making informed ethical choices as consumers, we can all help to encourage improvements.”
Some businesses are already committed to the principles of ethical and sustainable trading, playing a part in the fair trade movement although they may not bear the logo. And Surrey has its fair share! Here, we meet just a few of them…
One of Surrey’s most prestigious jewellery designers, Jon Dibben, founder and owner of Jon Dibben Jewellery in Cranleigh, has long been a passionate advocate of fair trade...
Tell us a bit about what you do…
I design fine jewellery, and have my own shop and workshop at Smithbrook Kilns, in Cranleigh. I, and a small team, create one-off pieces and collections in very limited numbers. For our fair trade jewellery, we use certified Fairtrade and Fairmined gold and platinum as well as recycled metals. We can also source stones that are traceable back to the country, or even mine of origin. An increasing interest in ethical sourcing of stones and metals led to me being selected as one of the first 20 designer-makers in the UK to be licensed to use Fairtrade gold, when it was launched, back in 2011. My first design in Fairtrade gold was then recognised by the British Jewellers’ Association as a landmark piece of the past 125 years and was selected to represent 2011 in their anniversary exhibition.
Why is fair trade important to you?
We want our customers to know exactly what they’re getting, and where the metals and stones are from. Clients can feel peace of mind that the materials aren’t associated with conflict and that the gold is helping to improve the lives and surroundings of small-scale, artisanal miners around the world. It’s this transparency and traceability that helps our customers to trust us with very special purchases. There is a misconception that it costs a lot more than standard gold, but it really doesn’t. The added cost of buying pieces in Fairtrade gold is very small, and outweighed by the ethical advantages.
What does the future hold for fair trade?
For gold, it’s looking quite rosy. At the moment, all the Fairtrade gold mines are in South America, but there are some exciting pilot schemes that have been running in Africa, thanks to money from Comic Relief, so we are looking forward to receiving the first African Fairtrade gold – and hopefully Fairtrade Ecological gold (mined without chemicals – e.g. mercury, cyanide and nitric acid). It’s all about raising awareness and, in addition to Fairtrade Fortnight, February 14, 2015, sees the launch of the Fairtrade Foundation’s ‘I Do’ campaign, which aims to make Fairtrade gold the ‘default’ choice for wedding rings in the UK.
• Jon Dibben Jewellery, 40a Smithbrook Kilns, Cranleigh GU6 8JJ. See jondibben.co.uk
Furniture and home accessories, Guildford
Founder and director of Myakka, an ethical furniture business that is about to open its first store in Guildford, Georgie Hopkins is justifiably proud of the company’s fair trade credentials...
How did your furniture company first come about?
My husband, Simon Whitehead, and I started our company, Myakka, in 1999. We offer customers an affordable range of beautiful solid-wood furniture, gorgeous soft furnishings, lighting and home accessories. Up until now, we have sold through our mail order catalogues and website, but I’m delighted to say that we are opening our first shop this month – and it’s in Guildford. The grand opening will be on Saturday February 28. The furniture is both designed and manufactured exclusively for us and we have fresh, individual styles that are perfect for modern living. Because we are able to accommodate customer requests, we have some interesting pieces in the collection such as side tables for awkward corners and space-saving cupboards.
In what ways do you trade fairly?
We follow the 10 principles of fair trade as set out by the World Fair Trade Organisation. Fundamentally, we trade with people as we’d like to be dealt with ourselves. Our wood is sourced from properly run plantations, mainly in India, Indonesia and Thailand. We also support Trees4Trees, which funds replanting schemes and best forestry practice in Indonesia. And we have links with SKSN, a school for physically challenged children in India. We write a regular blog so that our customers can keep up to date with all our activities. We are not a charity though – this is an important distinction for us. Fairly traded products shouldn’t be of lesser quality. Our products are design-led, covetable pieces. It’s actually a very simple trading model: we buy from our suppliers. They pass on a share of their profits. Our customers buy from us. We pass on a share of our profits. It’s so simple and yet it makes such a difference, like ripples on a pond.
What recognition have you had for your trading practice?
Myakka has been recognised by BAFTS (British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers) since 2006 and has held the Ethical Award for corporate social responsibility since 2009. We also recently received full marks from the Ethical Company Organisation in the Good Shopping Guide putting us right at the top of the list for ethical furniture.
• Myakka, 196 High Street, Guildford GU1 3HZ. See myakka.co.uk
Bike Beans Cycle Café,
Café/tea shop, Ashtead
Owner of the popular Bike Beans Cycle Café in Ashtead, Jamie Chisholme tells us why going down the fair trade route was always a no-brainer for him...
Tell us about the concept for your cycling café...
The concept for the Bike Beans Cycle Café was borne out of my love for cycling, food, hospitality and people. Cycling is a really sociable activity, and I wanted to establish a vibrant, friendly community; somewhere for cyclists to meet and ‘fuel up’. As well as the café, we have partnered with a great mechanic onsite so can service and repair bikes. We offer cycling and mechanic courses, and stock cycling equipment. We’ve just brought out our own cycling kit too, and anyone who comes into the café wearing it receives a 10% discount. The café is on the edge of the North Downs and is perfect biking territory. We offer lots of guided cycle rides during the week – all ending up at the café of course!
In what ways do you practise ethical trading?
It makes sense to marry the environmental benefits of cycling with responsible sourcing for the café. We have a great reputation for our coffee and, along with most of our other drinks, this is supplied by Kingdom Coffee – and it really is ‘coffee with a conscience’. The company goes beyond ‘Fairtrade’; it also reinvests back into the coffee growing communities where the coffee is sourced from. One of its charitable partners, Toybox, focuses upon the investment of funds into projects for street children. We also stock Belu still water, which operates to the highest environmental and ethical standards, and donates 100% of its profits to WaterAid. On the food side, our objective for the café was to provide a simple menu, done really well, and source as locally as possible. The cakes and soups are all made by a lady in the village, whilst most of the pasta, paninis and breakfasts are made in our kitchen. Lastly, our furniture is made from rubberwood, which is one of the most ecologically friendly timbers. The rubber trees are only cut down once their ‘latex’ production days are over. This means that furniture making is a by-product of the tree, using essentially what would otherwise go to waste.
How has this been recognised by the wider community?
Since opening almost three years ago, we have consistently won awards, the most recent being for ‘Best Customer Service’ in the Epsom and Ewell Business Awards. We were nominated by our customers and it was a complete surprise to us – it’s great to think that we must be doing something right!
• Bike Beans Cycle Café, 5B Rectory Lane, Ashtead KT21 2BA. See bikebeans.co.uk
5 facts about fair trade...
• Fair trade v Fairtrade. There’s a subtle difference: the former is a general movement involving various organisations such as the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). It is a way of thinking that strives for equal and sustainable trade. The latter is a certification scheme within this movement.
• The Fairtrade Foundation is the UK-based organisation behind the Fairtrade Mark and Fairtrade Fortnight. You can find out more about them online at fairtrade.org.uk
• Counties, villages, schools, churches, and universities can all achieve Fairtrade status by showing how they support and promote these products. Surrey University has been a Fairtrade accredited university since 2007 and has an active Fairtrade Society. Visit surreyac.uk to discover how they are celebrating Fairtrade Fortnight.
• Surrey also has several Fairtrade Towns, all playing their part in spreading the word, including: Addlestone, Dorking, Godalming, Guildford, Haslemere, Leatherhead, Lingfield & Dormansland, Rushmoor, Tatsfield and Woking.
• On Friday February 27, there is to be a screening of the Fairtrade Foundation’s exciting new film at the WWF’s Living Planet Centre in Woking, sharing stories of Fairtrade tea producers in Malawi. Visit surreyfairtrade.org.uk for more details, and to find out what other events are taking place near you.