Bristol fair trade

Posted on March, 01 2012

Fair trade, local farming and green purchasing flourish 

Fair trade, local farming and green purchasing flourish

In the last decade, a wave of support for fair trade – the concept that fair prices should be paid to producers in developing countries – swept over the west. By 2011, one thousand municipalities around the globe had fulfilled the criteria to become certified Fairtrade Towns. In Bristol, fair trade is one part of an ambitious agenda for sustainable consumption, that also includes local food production and green procurement.

Keywords: Fair trade, local farming, purchasing, sustainable consumption, NGOs

At Britain's 2011 Fairtrade Fortnight festival, Bristol received an Outstanding Achievement Award for its local fair trade campaign – which included numerous partnerships, a consumption guide, and a fashion show for fair trade clothes. Fair trade has flourished here, and in 2005 Briston became a Fairtrade Town.

History of Fairtrade
The Fairtrade label has its roots in the 1980s. In 1997, Fairtrade International was established, and in 2002, the Fairtrade certification was launched with the well-known label. Fairtrade guarantees that agricultural workers and the employees in production receive decent wages, that local investments are made, that child labour and discrimination are combated, that democracy and the right to organise as trade unions are promoted, and that environmental consideration and organic production are prioritised.

The phenomenon of Fairtrade Towns began in Britain in 2000, when the Oxfam group in the small municipality of Garstang (pop. 4,000) was able to get organisations and churches – and ultimately even the municipal council – to sign up to a resolution to offer fair trade products.

Several municipalities in Britain followed suit, and a great momentum began to grow. In 2003, it reached Ireland, in 2005 Belgium and Italy, in 2006 Sweden, Norway and the US, in 2007 Austria and Canada, in 2008 Denmark, Spain and Brazil, in 2009 Holland, France, Germany, Finland, New Zealand and Costa Rica, and in 2011 Luxemburg, Japan and Ghana. In 2011, a level of 1,000 municipalities was reached, of which more than half are in Britain and a large number in Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Austria and Sweden. Some large cities have joined, such as London, Brussels, Rome, Copenhagen, and Madrid.

The five criteria
The five main criteria for becoming a Fairtrade town are:
  • The municipal council adopts a resolution, agrees to offer Fairtrade products in its workplaces, and include ethical principles in its other purchasing.
  • A certain amount (related to town-size) of Fairtrade products is available in local shops, hotels, cafés and restaurants.
  • A certain amount (related to town-size) of workplaces, organisations, trade unions and churches offer Fairtrade products.
  • Information campaigns are conducted locally to increase knowledge of ethical consumption.
  • A local steering group, with representatives from all sectors in the city, monitors activities and makes sure it grows over time.

Local food production
Belgium and Canada have a sixth criterion – focused on sustainable and resilient local food production. This reflects a debate about fair trade products' climate impacts, with their often long transport. The Fairtrade Foundation's view, however, is that fair trade products and local food products can sit side by side in a person's food basket, especially when it concerns products that are difficult to produce locally. Many cities in countries other than Belgium and Canada now also include criteria for local food.

This is the case for Bristol, for example, where authorities in 2010 started a Food Charter (see also San Francisco and Ghent) with goals for sustainable and resilient local food production. It entails environmental and fair-trade criteria in purchasing (see also Sendai), reducing food wastes, and support to regional and local farming, including urban agriculture (see also Havana, Barcelona, Shanghai and Lubumbashi).

Bristol Green Capital
Bristol has a very broad sustainability policy. As part of the Bristol Green Capital programme, the city is striving to transform into a low-carbon, resilient city. Bristol is one of the leading cities for ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), energy savings (for which the city received special mention in European Green Capital Best Practice), citizen involvement, and sustainable consumption patterns (e.g. through transparency, and its Carbon Makeover campaign).

The Fairtrade Town campaign continues, multiplying the extent of fair trade. In 2007, a Web 2.0 application was created. In 2008, Wales became the world's first Fairtrade nation, based on criteria that 55% of municipalities have Fairtrade status, with the rest having campaigns, and that 75% of the population buys at least one Fairtrade product every year, and 40% regularly do so.

Bristol Green Capital,

Green Addict Bristol,

European Fair Trade Association (EFTA), "Bristol City Council: A Flagship Fair Trade City", 2011,

Fairtrade Towns,

Fair Trade Wales,

Key data are retrieved from the UN Demographic Yearbook 2011,

Text by: Martin Jacobson

Bristol, St Nicholas Market
© Destination Bristol
Map Bristol
Aerial shot of Bristol
© Destination Bristol
Bristol, Cabot Circus shopping
© Cabot Circus/Destination Bristol