It’s a few years now since Islington achieved Fair Trade status.
I was on the steering group at the time, and it was a happy day when we fulfilled the last criteria and could declare Islington a Fair Trade borough (which bizarrely involved me wrestling with a giant Fair Trade banana, while the then Mayor, Jonathan Dearth, brandished a pineapple….)
Since then, Fair Trade status has really taken off and now London itself is a Fair Trade City. And last night at our church council meeting, St Mary Islington took the final step to become a Fair Trade congregation. St Mary’s has been doing the right things on Fair Trade for some time, but now we’ve passed a formal resolution so it’s official.
At the core of Fair Trade is buying basics (tea, coffee, sugar, fruit) from suppliers who pay a fair price to the producers at the start of the supply chain. Fair Trade brings benefits beyond money: firms build up relationships with their producers, and so with the whole supply chain, making unethical practices visible in a way simply shopping around for the cheapest commodities does not. Those relationships can lead to long-term investment in producer communities – water, schools, healthcare. And because their income is from trade, not aid, producer communities can spend it as they wish, stimulating the local economy and giving people in poor communities more independent choices.
It’s not just teabags. My latest purchase is olive oil from Palestine, courtesy of the Fair Trade stall at another Islington church, St James.