Fairtrade, Climate Change and Climate Justice

By Sally Campbell

The Fairtrade Foundation was established in 1992, almost 30 years ago, by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Traidcraft, Global Justice Now, and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. Member organisations now also include Banana Link, All We Can, National Campaigner Committee, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, People & Planet, Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Shared Interest Foundation, Soroptimist International, Tearfund and Commitment to Life / United Reformed Church.

For Scotland and Arran see https://www.scottishfairtradeforum.org.uk/groups/arran/


Fairtrade is an arrangement designed to help producers in growing countries achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships. Members of the Fairtrade movement add the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as improved social and environmental standards. Fairtrade enables consumers to demand a better deal for those that produce our food. Through choosing Fairtrade consumers can demand the highest standards from business and government, ensuring people and planet are not exploited to create the products we enjoy. For many years the power was with commodity traders mostly from the richer countries USA, EU, UK who made vast profits from soya, cocoa, rice, bananas, cereals, without a fair return to those small farmers, and small co-operatives who produced these. We only have to remember the British Empire’s historical record with forced and indentured labour plantations producing sugar and cotton to know that profit making from poor people has a long history.


© Greenpeace. Graffiti on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa highlights water as a human right.

Why do we need Fairtrade?


Farming is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40% of today’s global population. It is the largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households. Yet millions of those who live on smallholder farms are going hungry, not earning enough to properly feed either themselves or their families. Their land is used by commodity traders and they do not share the profits equitably.

Why is this? Many farmers do not receive a fair price for what they produce. Workers do not receive a fair wage and are denied labour, economic, social, civil and political rights such as freedom of association, a living wage, collective bargaining and health and safety standards. Many indigenous people have effectively lost their land to multinational companies in wealthy countries. Much is appropriated, not bought.

Fairtrade works to share the benefits of trade more equally.

• Fairtrade is the only certification scheme that has a minimum safety net price – this provides essential stability and ability to forward plan.

• The Fairtrade Premium delivers an extra payment to farmers and workers – this provides the ability to build for the future.

• Fairtrade Standards require farmers and workers to be organised, inclusive, democratic and accountable – this provides the strength to negotiate and protect a fairer deal.

Fairtrade’s approach provides safeguards against the exploitation of vulnerable and marginalised populations, and helps promote protection of the natural environment.

© Greenpeace


• 46% of Fairtrade workers and 22% of Fairtrade farmers are women. Fairtrade’s approach to establishing democratic, transparent producer organisations contributes to the inclusion of men, women and young people.

• Fairtrade Standards prohibit child labour as defined by the ILO Minimum Age Convention. While no organisation can guarantee the non-existence of child labour, Fairtrade guarantees that if child labour is detected, the organisation acts to protect impacted children.

• Fairtrade Standards help protect the natural environment through strict rules on pesticides, water conservation, soil erosion, GMOs, biodiversity, energy use and reducing carbon footprint.
Fairtrade enables small-scale farmers and workers to drive forward a better future for all.

• Investment in community development is a key use of the Fairtrade Premium, sparking wider economic, social and environmental change.

• Fairtrade farmers are beginning to use their collective voice to challenge the status quo and push for better national policies.
Fairtrade enables consumers to demand a better deal for those who produce our food. Through choosing Fairtrade consumers can demand the highest standards from business and government, ensuring people and planet are not exploited to create the products we enjoy.

Who are the world’s largest agricultural traders? Where is the power? The ABCD traders.
The world’s largest commodity traders have a significant impact on the modern agri-food system. Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus, are dominant traders of grain globally and central to the food system, but their role is poorly understood. I wrote about Cargill in Voice for Arran December 2020. On more broader issues, it is important to point out that there is a very great difference between small scale farming, cooperatives etc and the big landowner agribusinesses who manage vast areas of land for monoculture and are linked to these big commodity traders.

Fairtrade is an arrangement designed to help producers in growing countries achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships. Members of the Fairtrade movement add the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as improved social and environmental standards.


From The Week, 7th November 2021

1.8 million farmers and workers asked politicians at COP26 to listen to their expertise and invest in smallholder farming communities as they face the climate crisis head on. Fairtrade is a system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the production and supply of a product or ingredient. For farmers and workers, Fairtrade means workers’ rights, safer working conditions and fairer pay. For shoppers, it means high quality, ethically produced products. Over 1.7 million farmers and workers in 1,707 producer organisations are part of Fairtrade. They cover bananas, chocolate, coffee, tea, flowers, wine, vanilla, sugar, nuts, cotton, cocoa, clothes and gold.

Choosing Fairtrade means standing with farmers for fairness and equality, against some of the biggest challenges the world faces. It means farmers creating change, from investing in climate friendly farming techniques to developing women in leadership. As a shopper through simple shopping choices, we show businesses and governments that we believe in fair and just trade.


Environmental protection is a key element of Fairtrade’s view of sustainability. Fairtrade Standards require smallholder farmer and larger hired labour production set-ups to comply in key areas, such as:

• Energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction
• Soil and water quality
• Pest management
• Biodiversity protection
• Prohibition of genetically modified organisms and harmful chemicals
• Waste management

Amongst the many requirements, the Standards prohibit the use of certain agrochemicals that are harmful to the environment and health and focus on reducing the use of pesticides. They ensure personal protective equipment is used, that farms are free from hazardous waste and are using water sustainably, and encourage activities to enhance biodiversity. The Standards also promote training for farmers, which can include advice on switching to environmentally friendly practices, such as developing nutrient-rich soils that support healthy plants and encouraging wildlife to help control pests and diseases. This has been shown to lead to good agricultural practices, which have encouraged environmentally sustainable production.

Beyond the Standards, the Fairtrade Premium is used to fund a range of projects and training that promotes environmental sustainability. One example is converting to organic production, which can be challenging for farmers because of the extra costs involved. But making the switch means they can often earn a higher price for their crop, and for some they can become more resilient to environmental shocks.

Some coffee and tea co-operatives have chosen to invest in reforestation projects such as tree-planting to help improve the micro-climate, protect soils and provide a habitat for indigenous wildlife. “We don’t see it as just a product in a cup – because behind every cup lies a forest that is being protected.” Fatima Ismael, General Manager of SOPPEXCCA coffee co-operative, Nicaragua. This points to the clear links with Climate Change and therefore to Climate Justice.




Climate change is already harming peoples’ lives, but those effects are not being felt equally around the world. People in poorer countries and communities are facing the brunt of the crisis. Climate justice means balancing the scales, repairing the damage to these people’s lives but also holding those most responsible for the climate crisis to account.

Global temperatures have already risen by over 1ºC, hitting those people least equipped to respond. Millions of people are experiencing food insecurity in southern Africa following unprecedented droughts and storms. Summer temperatures reach up to 51°C in parts of India and Pakistan, causing serious health problems. Diseases are spreading and crops are failing in Guatemala, while glacier melt threatens villages in Peru. Seawater and accompanying salinity contaminate peoples’ farms in Bangladesh, displacing them off the land and into the cities, often forcing them to take on gruelling, low paid work. In rural parts of Kenya, women travel further and further to get access to safe water. Whether it is flooding in the UK, storms in Malawi, or floods in Indonesia, extreme weather is becoming increasingly regular and ferocious. In places like Tuvalu, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea some communities are losing their homes and livelihoods to the rising sea.


Climate impacts are felt globally, but wherever we are, our ability to cope depends on what is in our purse. The wealthy have funds or insurance to cover a quick retreat to safety, temporary accommodation, and rebuilding or relocation costs. But the poor may not be able to evacuate, may not have reliable access to food, water, housing or energy, and insurance may be unavailable or unaffordable. They may also have been victims of discriminatory state and corporate policies that disproportionately exposed them to risks that could have been better managed. Many factors beyond our control – our gender, age, economic status and location – all influence our ability to respond.

While those most responsible for climate change, and that includes all of us in the UK, are relatively insulated from its impacts, those least responsible are stripped of basic freedoms and dignity. They have to survive ever greater adversities with increasingly limited resources. Research by Oxfam shows that the world’s richest 10% of people cause 50% of emissions. This group also claims over half of the world’s wealth, and most who own it, live in the so-called “developed” world. The world’s poorest 50% of people contribute approximately 10% of global emissions and receive about 8% of global income.

Data from the World Bank show that the average person in the UK emits 65 times more carbon compared to someone in Malawi. US, Canadian and Australian citizens emit over 150 times more. These (already unbelievably disproportionate numbers) do not account for the carbon emissions built into making and shipping the technology we are using, the food that we are eating, or clothes we are wearing.

At the same time, the sixth poorest country in the world, Mozambique, shoulders the burden of over $3.2 billion in loss and damage following two unprecedented cyclones in 2019. According to Civil Society Review, the global bill for damage from incidents related to climate change suggest it is likely to hit $300-700 billion by 2030. Climate justice will balance the scales, if managed with clear strategy to put environment at the centre of government policies around the world.

The same report also suggests that sharing the damage cost fairly would mean at least 50% for the US and EU (including the UK) in 2019, 10% for China, and 0.5% for India. But these numbers cannot do justice to the pain of a hungry child, separated family, or dislocated community. Repairing the consequences of climate change is crucial. But it is not enough. Climate justice also means all of us transitioning away from the system that has got us here so that we can try to limit warming below 1.5°C. It also means starting now and not relying on false or future technology solutions to save us. Greenwashing, for example the present misplaced desire for buying up Scotland’s wild places, promising trees and rewilding and using the PR for offset purposes for carbon hungry companies is NOT the answer, except for short term financial gain for the few!!


This week I was offered the opportunity by our heating oil company to pay £13 extra on the bill to offset the carbon in the heating oil (800 litres) we were buying. No satisfactory answer was forthcoming to my question as to how this offsetting would be achieved, presumably not by me. I just pay £13 and go on the same way. No need to change our behaviour, just pay a bit more …No, was my response; we have turned down the heating, we try not now to use our heating during the day, we wear a vest and extra jumper so are using much less heating oil. Changing our behaviour. When our oil boiler, now 17 years old, gives up the ghost we will hopefully transition to total renewable energy. We already use renewable electricity or at least so we are told! We need to change other things about our life-style too as we cannot depend on multinationals doing it! We see airlines offering tree growth for offsetting flights. By the time they are mature, it will be far too late for our climate. But it helps our conscience and seduces us all to continue the same lifestyle. Buy local Scottish food as much as possible, wear sustainable clothing made locally, use public transport for longer journeys (when it opens up again!) We already grow trees in our garden, almost a wee arboretum.

Accepting timelines for future action keeps business running as usual today, risking a 4°C future where no one will be able to escape impacts. Those that live in such a world will be forced into survival mode. As we move to a low carbon world, those with the greatest responsibility for having got us here must be held to account. That is starting with the fossil fuel, agribusiness, cement and concrete, and mining industries, plus their financial backers. This is particularly important given that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. Yet they, until recently, kept getting government handouts and capital from private banks to fund new coal, oil and gas ventures. World governments, including the UK and Scottish governments must stop saying they are committed to climate action while handing out money to the perpetrators of global breakdown. But some global businesses are changing, investing in renewable and new types of energy. We all need to keep the pressure on them to invest for the future green planet. There is in fact very little we can contribute individually when you look at say the steel and cement industries and it is these industries in the industrialised world that need to be turned around. So, we must act as a group to compel changes. It is happening but perhaps too slowly. Also, it is worth highlighting the positive that a transformation to renewable sources of energy does mean economic opportunities and jobs for the long term.


We already have the solutions. Moving to open and accessible renewable energy, restoring forests and shifting to sustainable agriculture will not only address the climate and nature emergencies, it will reverse the gross imbalance between rich and poor, those who can afford to adapt and those who cannot. We must protect the oceans too against excessive exploitation, help restore the natural oceanic carbon storage and cycles, manage global fisheries so that inshore, often indigenous communities, are not disadvantaged by large commercial and often illegal fisheries. When storms and other impacts hit, countries on the frontline of climate change should be supported, rather than being pushed further into debt.

It is only by taking people and the planet off the stock market which has an imperative to make money in short term financial gains, and having a vision for flourishing communities beyond GDP growth, that we can do this. Addressing the climate crisis gives us the opportunity and mandate to reorient our societies towards protecting our human rights and repairing political, social and economic inequities. Crucially, climate justice also means putting indigenous communities at the centre of this process. They have practiced sustainable living for so long, and have resiliently protected 80% of global biodiversity.

80 Arran people stood up for Climate Change and Climate Justice during COP26 on 6 November in pouring rain and gale. We now have little time to change; a few seconds in geological time in the billions of years of our planet’s life on earth. So, we need political pressure, changes in our own life styles and making difficult choices. Protecting and restoring our natural habitats on land, and sea. Make 2022 the year of change and hope. COVID 19 and its siblings have made us all realise we are vulnerable and must work and live differently. Now let us do it for our planet, our home.

Every story has a grain of truth in it and yet is partial. It’s only when we can move beyond the boundaries of our current narrative and explore the unknown territory of a new way of being in the world that we find our true path of service. When we let go of the story of ‘me’ we naturally and gracefully move into a story of ‘we’ that encompasses all of life. We create a new mythology through the daily acts of beauty that stem from stepping into this new and interconnected universe”.

Campbell, S. (2020) Soya and the Cerrado. www.voiceforarran.com. December 2020
Civil Society Review. (2019) Can climate changed fuelled loss and damage ever be fair?
www.greenpeace.org.uk. Renewable Energy
Harpreet Kaur, P. (2020) Climate Change affects rich and poor equally. Climate justice redresses the balance. Greenpeace
Mayhew Bergman, M. (2019) They choose us because we are rural and poor when environment, racism and climate collide. The Guardian 19 March
McVeigh, K. (2020) UN Sounds alarm over unprecedented levels of hunger in southern Africa. The Guardian 16 January
Nazer, S. (2017) The Last Islander: rising sea levels in Papua New Guinea. Unicef Connect.
Oxfam Media Briefing. (2020) Confronting Carbon Inequality. Putting climate justice at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery. www.oxfam.org
Riley, T. (2017) Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says. The Guardian, July.
Watts, J. and Hunt, E. (2018) Halfway to boiling the city at 50º. The Guardian, 13 August.

Sally Campbell
January 2022