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M&S is actively supporting Fairtrade Fortnight (February 29th – March 13th).  This year we are extremely proud to also be marking our 10th year of selling 100% Fairtrade tea and coffee in both our cafes and stores. 

Back in 2004 we worked with our existing tea and coffee producers to convert them to Fairtrade.  We continued those partnerships by supporting them with income diversification initiatives, climate adaptation projects and leadership programmes to name a few, details of which can be found in our Global Community Programme.  

One of the most important things about Fairtrade is the links it has managed to forge between smallholder producers and retail customers.  

M&S visits producers regularly to review progress and also to see where growers need support.  It’s fantastic to see the progress that many producers have made over the years.  We’ve also been delighted to welcome many producers here in the UK, whom we’ve taken to many of our shops, to meet our customers and to see how their product is sold. 

It’s really important that it’s not just the sustainability team visiting, M&S coffee buyer Emily Oldfield and technical manager James Mitchell spent a week in Kenya visiting our tea and coffee growers there.  It was a great opportunity for them to understand the real value of Fairtrade certification, for our growers and for us.  Here are Emily’s thoughts on the visit…

‘We recently visited three tea factories, two coffee co-operatives, a non-Fairtrade coffee estate alongside visits to a number of growers and Fairtrade projects.  We finished the week speaking at the Plan A Conference in Kenya. 

One of my key objectives was to learn about the value of Fairtrade;  as a buyer it’s important for me to understand the significance of the price premium to growers.  To get a good grasp of the difference that Fairtrade makes we visited a non-Fairtrade estate on the way to Mount Kenya, as well as visiting a number of Fairtrade cooperatives that we source from. 

Meeting our growers brought it home just how small scale a lot of them are.  Tea and coffee are highly traded commodities and with so many small scale farmers involved it’s important that growers are protected and given a voice - Fairtrade certification helps by supporting workers’ rights.  The biggest difference between the estate and the Fairtrade cooperatives were the impressive projects in place with the help of the premium: one cooperative built a computer lab which helps to support the development of worker communities, whilst the other had a beehive on site which produces honey that the growers can sell at the local market, helping to diversify their incomes.

We also got to see the benefit of a project that M&S invested directly in at a tea cooperative in Mount Kenya. M&S helped the cooperative purchase a machine which packaged the tea, allowing the growers to sell their product direct to M&S and to the local community thus allowing the farmers to have a greater share of the value of tea and a bigger involvement in the supply chain.  See the following video for more info.  Boosting livelihoods of our growers means we have quality supply in years to come - and it’s also a great story to tell our customers.

Like other raw material commodity farmers, most tea and coffee growers have little idea of what the finished product looks like.  Speaking at the Plan A Conference in Kenya was a great opportunity to engage our growers with M&S and I think it certainly helped to build trust down the supply chain.

In the advent of Fairtrade Fortnight we have made a number of videos for our store staff and the wider community to communicate and promote our work with Fairtrade.  This video hopefully gives a good insight in to how we work with Fairtrade and the positive impact on our growers.