Raise up your cups: Fairtrade at work

31 March 2015

Going Fairtrade in the workplace is simple to do and won’t require a major financial investment. We look at how, and why, you should spend your procurement dollars for good.

According to the World Bank, 2.2 billion people lived on less than NZ$2.75 a day in 2011. Of the world’s poorest 1.4 billion, the majority are subsistence farmers, workers and indigenous people living in rural areas.

The Fairtrade certification gives these small farmers a chance to earn a decent wage, offering minimum prices, a Fairtrade premium (which can be spent how the community best deems fit), access to credit and stable, long-term working relationships.  Farmers also have a 50 per cent stake in the Fairtrade system, with voting rights and the chance to get involved in their producer network – meaning they can weigh in when decisions are being made. The Fairtrade system also means that workers’ rights are protected; that means no child labour, freedom of association and the right to benefits including maternity leave and a pension.

Fairtrade is also an easy way to strengthen your organisation’s CSR strategy, says Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand’s Pravin Sawmy. “Impact is measurable and traceable and Fairtrade provides a great vehicle to engage employees in the difference that their morning cuppa is having in communities around the world.” Plus there are opportunities, such as the Fair Trade Fortnight, to remind employees, and the people you do business with, about the difference your organisation is making.

It also has commercial value in the form of CSR or Triple Bottom Line reporting, for example it can be used in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index reporting, plus it increases supply chain transparency and staff morale.

Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand (Fairtrade ANZ) is encouraging more businesses to take up the challenge and commit to becoming a Fairtrade workplace. Making the switch won’t impact on profitability, consumables are a small part of an organisation’s procurement, the price point is comparable and it’s good for both ‘people’ and ‘planet’ – farmers receive prices covering the cost of sustainable production and there are standards in place to encourage good agricultural practices.

It’s pretty simple really, all you have to do is use at least two Fairtrade certified products (look for the Fairtrade mark on the pack), which could include coffee, tea, sugar, hot chocolate, bananas or uniforms made with Fairtrade cotton. It’s free and you can find more information here.

Why BNZ chose Fairtrade

BNZ is one of New Zealand’s largest banks, with around 180 retail stores and 5000 employees. It’s also the biggest Fairtrade workplace in the country, signing up in 2010, and, since then, staff consume around a million cups of Fairtrade coffee every year.

“We saw it as a positive message to be able to send out to our suppliers, customers and staff as well as visitors who come into our stores and corporate offices,” says BNZ Sustainability and Community Manager, Jessica Rodger. “It is about using our purchasing influence to create a positive impact.”

The sustainability department engaged with the Chief Operating Officer at the time – and with his support, and the ease of a centralised procurement system, it was an easy measure to implement. “The main thing is that we changed the coffee and tea we had on offer and made it Fairtrade, so that was the only option that people had when purchasing.”

BNZ keeps up the Fairtrade momentum during the year, especially during May’s Fairtrade Fortnight when it organises events (last year it had one of the coffee farmers from Ghana come in and talk to staff), writes articles for external and internal communications and sets up staff screensavers about Fairtrade. 

Jessica says she would strongly encourage other businesses to join up and communicate the Fairtrade concept to staff throughout the year. “It’s about communicating why we are doing it and what the benefits are, because once people understand it they really buy into it.”

Why the SBN chose Fairtrade

Here at the SBN we put our money where our mouth is. We have a strict procurement policy – buying only Fairtrade-certified tea, coffee, sugar, cocoa and, where possible, fruit such as Fairtrade bananas for our kitchen supplies and catering. In the first instance we purchase Fairtrade products from our members.

“By making conscious decisions about our purchasing behaviour we are sending a clear signal to the market about the standard of products and services we believe are acceptable,” says Julia Jackson, Transformation Leader Community. “We see it as a chance to influence the market and help mainstream and promote ethically produced products.”

You can ask for Fairtrade from members like Scarborough Fair, Staples, All Good Organics, Kokako Organics and Commonsense Organics

Members can find more information about sustainable procurement under our resource sheets available here.

SPECIAL OFFER FOR SBN MEMBERS: If you are a member, and interested in making the switch to Fairtrade, contact Rachel at r.beckett@fairtrade.org.nz to win one of five Fairtrade at Work welcome packs for your office.