The luxury of caring about Fairtrade condoms
22.02.2011 § 3 Comments
I just read here that Waitrose, the British supermarket chain, will start selling Fairtrade condoms in an attempt to reinforce its commitment to sustainability. For those of you not familiar with the concept, this is what it is about:
Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. Fairtrade offers producers a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their every day shopping.
It is basically a deal between companies and suppliers from developing countries that ensures fair prices for the later, so that they can cover their costs, continue their activity and support the local economy. The main beneficiaries are countries in the southern hemisphere, like those in South America and Africa. It is a really big thing in Western European countries (my UK experience was full of it), where companies are literally fighting over who introduces the next Fairtrade product (a product which respects the trading standards set by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation). It is also a serious, very well organised thing. The Fairtrade certificate is only awarded to a product if the standards have been met and there are several organisations promoting and safeguarding it throughout the world, like the Fairtrade Foundation and Fairtrade International. Products with a Fairtrade certificate range from fruits to coffee and cocoa, cotton, juices, tea, gold, sports balls and now, apparently, condoms. Starbucks, Cadbury, Nestlé, Marks and Spencer, Nescafé, Tesco, Debenhams and Boots are just some of the companies with one or more certifications.
I am so amazed sometimes by the differences in the public and corporate agendas between countries like Romania and the rest of the world. They worry about things like how the rubber for the condoms was produced in a developing country and we can’t even support our own agriculture. Imported oranges have become cheaper than locally produced potatoes and politicians are trying to pass a law which forces supermarkets to give 10% of their space to local products (?!). Romania is not at a point where it can afford to look into things like Fairtrade, but our current problems give rise to other opportunities that companies fail to see or take. International supermarket chains operating in our country, like Carrefour, tend to forget about their global commitment to sustainability and to promoting local producers. Despite all the governmental problems, I think the numerous hardships that local producers are confronted with represent great opportunities for a company (especially from the retail sector) to differentiate itself through demonstrated responsibility.
In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming of a time when my fellow Romanians will care about whether the rubber in their condoms was fairly traded or not.