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This week marks 25 years since the FAIRTRADE Mark launched in the UK. Anniversaries are an opportunity for reflection, and thanks to the support of shoppers and the commitments of leading retailers such as M&S over a quarter of a century, at Fairtrade we’re proud to have become the most visible ethical label in the UK, recognised by nine out of ten people and trusted by 84% of consumers. Since the first few FAIRTRADE Mark certified products were launched by four brands in 1994, today there are around 6,000 Fairtrade-certified products on sale in the UK for shoppers to choose from supporting a network of 1.7 million farmers and workers. 

Back in the early 1990s, the human cost of business was sometimes overlooked and on the whole, consumers were unaware of the harsh reality that millions of farmers and workers around the globe suffered. Fairtrade set about changing this, and from day one the public embraced Fairtrade’s values to put people and the planet first, showing support through their shopping. Together with consumers, brands and retailers, Fairtrade revolutionised the way food is traded so that today, millions of farmers and workers around the world can benefit. Beyond offering a minimum price for producers, over the last 25 years Fairtrade farmers and workers have received just over one billion Euros in Fairtrade Premium. These are additional funds that Fairtrade farmers are empowered to invest as they decide in their communities and in their businesses.

M&S was one of Fairtrade’s earliest supporters and it continues to be one of our leading retail partners with many of the same values as the Fairtrade Foundation.   Having worked closely with M&S for the past 14 years, we are proud to continue innovating together with such a leader in the responsible and sustainable business space. In 2006, M&S became the first retailer to convert all its tea and coffee to Fairtrade, having already switched all coffee sold in its cafes across the country. Since then, M&S has demonstrated commitments across a number of other categories such as sugar, flowers, wine, chocolate, bananas and jams. It is commitments such as these that drive such significant and positive change for the Fairtrade growers around the world, from Chile to South Africa, from Kenya to Peru, like Esperanza Dionisio, CEO of Pangoa, one of M&S’s Fairtrade certified coffee suppliers. It is commitments such as these that we celebrate today. 

Esperanza Dionisio, CEO of Pangoa

Esperanza says: 'Being part of a Fairtrade co-operative has enabled us to create a profitable business for farmers over the past two decades. Our land is such an important resource to us and producing coffee means we can develop our families, our communities, we can educate our children. By coming together and selling our coffee under Fairtrade terms we have built up a thriving local economy that strives to produce better quality coffee with each year. I am coming to the UK to celebrate the 25th birthday of Fairtrade coffee and other products because we are proud to be farmers and we want the world to see what we can achieve.'

But today is also about looking ahead, because with the challenges facing farmers and workers globally, Fairtrade is still needed. The effects of the climate crisis and low commodity prices are pushing people into greater poverty, and conditions are as hard as ever for farmers. The imbalance of power in supply chains still squeezes the profits of trade away from the hardworking people who grow the things we love to consume. Fairtrade exists to offer an alternative, to empower producers and to get a better deal for Fairtrade farmers and workers. Though the challenges are significant, Fairtrade is proof of what is possible when millions of people pull together. Our vision at Fairtrade is living incomes and living wages for all farmers and workers. We’re working towards this goal, such as increasing the Fairtrade cocoa price by 20% and campaigning for the government and businesses to do more. Businesses that source cocoa under Fairtrade are therefore able to make an immediate and significant difference.

In our 25th year we thank all who have been with us on this amazing journey; and even more importantly, we ask you to make your mark on Fairtrade’s future. Every Fairtrade purchase matters not just for the people behind the products, every time a banana, a chocolate bar or a coffee is bought at shops like M&S, the public are showing they care about the social and environmental impact of their consumption. Fairtrade is a movement, and UK shoppers, campaigners and businesses have been a driving force of the revolution globally and will continue to be vital for the future. This week thousands of people will be holding events and replicating the iconic FAIRTRADE Mark to celebrate our anniversary.   Five communities in Glasgow, Hull, Wales, London, and Cornwall, are going further with aerial photos and creative expressions of support for Fairtrade.  

At Fairtrade, we are totally committed to doing our bit to meet the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 – we are as ambitious now as we were when we first began. The key to so many problems starts with tackling poverty and exploitation.  We look forward to the next 25 years, and seeing how much more change we can bring about with the ongoing support of forward-looking, responsible businesses, such as M&S.