On 9th March at the Huntsman Inn in Holmfirth, The Holme Valley Fair Trade Support group hosted a fascinating presentation by Veronica Pasteur, Head of Campaigns for the Fairtrade Foundation. entitled ‘The Great Cotton Stitch Up’. She explained how cotton is the most used natural fibre in the world and should be the ‘white gold’ that propels ten million West African farmers out of poverty. However, the West African cotton industry is obstructed by a wall of subsidies dished out by the United States and the European Union to their own farmers.
Fairtrade is providing the African farmers with a lifeline until this injustice is resolved. If you missed the evening there is a short film and details of how you can help the Campaign on The Fair Trade Foundation web site.
We are also involved in an exciting new initiative being led by Professor Darryl Reed of York University, Toronto, Canada for the establishment of a Fair Cotton Co-operative Alliance linking farming, textile production, distribution, marketing, and retailing organisations. Members of the Alliance include a Womens Empowerment Organisation with more than 3.5 milion members and spinning, weaving, and garmenting co-operatives in Kerala, India. They are working together with co-operatives in the UK and Canada to develop ‘pro-poor’ supply chains for organic and Fairtrade cotton products that give a fair share of the value created to those involved who currently live below the poverty line.
We hope the first products from this initiative will be available on-line from the Fair Traders co-operative before the end of the year.
When I joined The Fair Traders Cooperative last August I really had no idea of what I was letting myself in for. Stringing pants across the River Holme during Fair Trade Fortnight was an unexpected highlight on a journey that has opened my eyes to the trading injustices in the world.
Hoisting frillies on a cold March Saturday made perfect sense as a way to ‘Show off our label’ and let everybody know that they should think about ‘who made their pants’.
The ‘B Day’ event – Bloomers, Bunting, Buns & a Brew – was just one of the many fantastic milestones for Fair Trade during the fortnight. From our little co-operative in Holmfirth, we showed off in many ways.
The bunting, pants and all, was created by community groups, schools and enthusiastic participants of our ‘Design A Bag’ workshops in the run up to Fair Trade Fortnight. Following its public display in Holmfirth, the bunting will be sent to share in The Fair Trade Foundation’s world breaking record attempt for the longest stretch of bunting.
As for the ‘Bags’, a host of celebrities from Ian McMillan to Annie Lennox, Fearne Cotton to David Cameron have committed their signatures to a fair trade cotton bag, boosting the visibility of our Showing Off campaign. The bags will be used later in the year at an auction event, which we hope will give another boost of publicity to fair trade awareness.
The plight of cotton farmers was also highlighted when Veronica Pasteur, Head of Campaigns at The Fair Trade Foundation, led a speaker event, entitled ‘ The Great Cotton Stitch Up, organised by The Holme Valley Support Group at the Huntsman, Holmfirth on March 9th. We were doubly pleased that Veronica had time to visit The Fair Traders Coop the following day and was very complimentary about the shop. She also conducted an interview with director Helen Robinson, which we hope will be aired soon.
Also speaking at the event was Clare Ibberson-John, who gave us a fascinating insight into the plight of banana farmers in St Vincent following the recent hurricane.
On March 2nd, we gave a presentation to the assembly at St Johns Primary School, Golcar. We met a brilliant bunch of kids, who have been inspired by their dedicated teachers. They certainly ‘get’ Fairtrade, which bodes well for the future of the trade justice movement.
On March 4th, The Fair Traders Cooperative hosted an evening with Monica Norley, the founder of Visionary Soap, the UK’s leading fair trade beauty care company.
It was a privilege to host such a passionate and committed proponent of fair trade. Her words and vision were a call to us all. Our blog all about the evening is now available.
One of our directors was also invited to a prestigious Fair Trade event hosted by Chelmsford Star Co-operative, on March 3rd.
Speakers included Ed Mayo, General Secretary of Co-operatives UK and John Kabyetsiza, Finance & Systems Manager of Fruits of the Nile in Uganda, who supply the delicious banana chips on sale in our shop. The raffle on the night was in aid of our appeal for the farmers of St Vincent and raised an amazing £400. On the same day, we also attended Footsey: the social enterprise exhibition in Doncaster and met many new like-minded contacts as well as attracting new members to the co-operative.
The fortnight ended with a visit from six delegates from the Directorate of Co-operatives, Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDT) of Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. Again, it was honour to be hosting a visit from such an influential group of visitors and one which we hope will have sown seeds for the future.
Fair Trade Fortnight was a fantastic opportunity for us all to show off and the momentum gained during the last two
weeks for the fair trade movement cannot be denied. Thank you to everybody who contributed: The Holme Valley Support Group, Veronica Pasteur, The Co-operative College, Chelmsford Star, Holmfirth Guides, Who Made Your Pants, Pants to Poverty and many others.
Here at The Fair Traders Co-operative we are proud to stock the fabulous Visionary Soap Company range, which includes luscious lip balms, superb soaps, and beautifully scented body oils and bath melts. These luxurious products are all crammed with vegan, organic and fair trade ingredients, a fact that has made them very popular and launched the Visionary Soap Company to the status of being the leading ethical body care company in the UK. Imagine our delight then, when Monica Norley, Founder and CEO of the company, agreed to come and speak at The Fair Traders Co-operative during Fairtrade Fortnight this year about the development of her company, her personal journey and the positive impact that Visionary Soap products have on communities in some of the poorest parts of the world.
The evening was well attended, with our Community Room almost full with people keen to hear more about how Monica went from making soaps on her kitchen stove to sell at the local farmers’ market, to selling thousands of bars of soap each year and drawing in contracts from major high street retailers. Fairtrade wine was of course available for those who wanted it, helping to create a relaxed yet buzzing atmosphere.
Listening to Monica speak, it was clear that she really has developed her company through sheer hard work and determination, and an unwavering commitment to environmental values and to fair and ethical trade. She explained how her early career in the US Peace Corps and then later working for a voluntary sector group which supported the development of women’s co-operatives for immigrants to the US, furnished her with the skills, knowledge, passion and vision that led to the development of The Visionary Soap Company. One very successful women’s co-operative that she supported provided cleaning services using only chemical- free, environmentally friendly cleaning methods. This sparked a real interest in Monica in Earth- and body-friendly ingredients for cleaning and body care products, and prompted her to take a course in cold process natural soap-making.
Then, personal circumstances led to a huge life change for Monica – she moved from bustling San Francisco, to comparatively sleepy Hastings in the UK. It didn’t take her long to work out that there were going to be few available jobs that would utilise her skills and experience at the same time as allowing her to pursue her passions for human development, fair trade and environmental improvement – so she decided to do something of her own, that would allow her to combine all of these elements into her new life here in England.
And so The Visionary Soap Company was born. Whilst renovating her Victorian house, Monica hand-made luxury soaps containing fair trade and organic ingredients, using a make- shift stove in her crumbling kitchen. She sold these at local farmers markets, and found that demand for her products was growing all the time. What was unique at the time, and still marks Visionary Soaps out as different to other natural, organic and fair trade body care products, are the percentages of fair trade ingredients that Monica uses in her range. She explained in her presentation that her soaps tend to be about 60% fair trade ingredients, compared to the 2% required for Fairtrade certification. Some of the body butters in the Visionary Soap Company’s range are as high as 99-100% Fairtrade ingredients. At the time Monica set up her company, the Fairtrade Foundation hadn’t begun to certify body care products, and she described how she was one of the pioneers, who kept up the pressure to ensure that body care ingredients ultimately became Fairtrade certified. Her commitment to ethical trading meant that she was unearthing a growing number of fair trade ingredients, enabling her to develop The Visionary Soap Company’s product range, and ensuring that she became one of the most informed experts on fair trade body care in the country. She explained how this expertise, along with the understanding that comes from years spent hand-making the products she sells, led to some unique collaborations in the areas of the world where her ingredients are produced.
Many of Monica’s ingredients come from South Africa, and she showed a short film (available to view at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atlEvW6mIB8) which tells the story of The Visionary Soap Company’s Township Trades initiative. Through this project, The Visionary Soap Company supported the start-up of a social enterprise manufacturing soap in Khayelitsha Township in South Africa, using as many locally sourced, fairly traded ingredients as possible. The township has been devastated by AIDS/HIV, and many of the young people given the chance to gain skills through the project are AIDS orphans. Monica explained how cold process soap-making is an excellent business for areas of the world where resources are limited, as it requires only very small inputs of energy and water, and many of the ingredients are available locally.
Throughout the presentation, Monica invited contributions and questions from the audience, which made for a lively evening and a great deal of interesting discussion. We are very grateful to Monica for travelling all the way from Hastings to join us during Fairtrade Fortnight, and for her open and engaging approach to sharing with us her passion for fair trade and her journey to becoming an ethical entrepreneur and fair trade pioneer. You can buy The Visionary Soap Company’s products in The Fair Traders Co-operative shop or through our online store. To find out more about The Visionary Soap products, see the range in our online shop.
On March 23rd, The Fair Traders Co-operative is pleased to host an evening of presentations and discussion focussing on ethical and sustainable trade with organisations in Nepal. Led by two of our suppliers who work closely with fair trade groups and disadvantaged communities in Nepal, the evening promises to be both informative and thought-provoking.
Local fashion accessories designer, Laura Queening, will be talking about working with the Nepal Fair Trade Group to improve income and quality of life in communities in remote, mountain-top locations; and Sue Lavender, Founder of ethical jewellery company Dhanusha Designs, will be discussing the origins of her organisation through the Lalgadh Leprosy Services Centre in South East Nepal.
Come and join us in our Community Room to learn more about these inspiring women and their innovative work. Tickets are now available from our online shop.
Country of contrasts
Think of Nepal and we picture towering snow-capped peaks and beautiful mountain landscapes. The name conjures images of crystal clear lakes, vast blue skies and lush mountain terraces. Unfortunately, this breathtaking environment is home to one of the poorest nations in the world, and to one of the highest rates of leprosy. For sufferers of this debilitating disease it’s not only the physical effects that make their lives difficult – local beliefs and culture see leprosy as a punishment for misdeeds in former lives, leading sufferers to be rejected by their communities and even by their families. Whilst the disease itself can now be treated easily and cheaply using modern medicine, a diagnosis of leprosy can nevertheless lead to being outcast, and in Nepalese culture this is considered to be a fate worse even than poverty or hunger. One sufferer quoted on the Nepal Leprosy Trust website describes the disease as “my living death”, and this despite the fact that from a medical perspective he was completely ‘cured’. However, the remaining ulcers, scarring and pain left him ostracised by his family and his community; to be dislocated from society in this way in a Hindu society such as Nepal is to be denied any meaningful role in life.
Both Laura and Sue work through the Nepal Leprosy Trust to support leprosy sufferers in building a life for themselves through fair trade.
Laura Queening’s unique, contemporary fashion accessories are designed in consultation with local workers in Nepal, to ensure that the best possible use is made of local skills and materials in bringing her bags, purses, scarves and stationary products to life. Environmental and fair trade principles underpin the design and manufacture of the Aura Que range… right down to the use of pedal powered machinery in the fair trade factory where the leather is worked.
Materials include hand-made lokta paper, banana yarn and leather that is a by-product of the food industry. Laura is committed to ensuring ethical working practices and fair trade, and aims to forge strong relationships with each of the manufacturers she works with, whether these be IFAT recognised factories or small, Nepalese family businesses. By maintaining long term relationships with suppliers based on fair prices, the businesses themselves can invest and grow, and their workers can rely on receiving a living wage into the future. Laura also works through the Nepal Leprosy Trust to support their projects providing employment and support for people affected by leprosy. See Laura’s latest collection at her website http://www.auraque.com and in our online shop.
After visiting a hospital run by the Nepal Leprosy Trust, through which sufferers and their families are given treatment and support, Sue Lavender felt moved to work with the Trust to set up a project providing work and skills for people making use of the hospital. The Trust aims to bring improvements to every aspect of the lives of people affected by leprosy, by equipping them to re-adapt and re-integrate successfully into their communities, both socially and economically. The hospital Sue became involved with, the Lalgadh Leprosy Services Centre, provides healthcare and treatment for sufferers, and runs outreach programmes to prevent the spread of the disease and to tackle the social stigma that is attached to the illness in Nepalese society. The Centre also aims to provide empowerment and capacity building programmes, giving sufferers and their families training and opportunities to gain dignity, and an income. Sue set up Dhanusha Designs in partnership with the Trust, and working through the Lalgadh Centre, the company creates elegant beaded jewellery for sale in Nepal and the UK. All the workers are paid a fair wage and gain valuable skills, confidence and dignity via their involvement in the project. You can find out more about Dhanusha Designs on Facebook and see her products in our online shop.
Our Moving Mountains evening on 23rd March provides the opportunity to view and buy fairly traded Nepalese products, hear more about these initiatives, and to ask Laura and Sue about Nepal, its people and their work to improve quality of life for the most disadvantaged in Nepalese society.
The Fair Traders Co-operative in Holmfirth and the Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group will
be hosting an event with a difference this Fairtrade Fortnight! On Saturday 5th March shoppers
will be treated to the sight of Fairtrade cotton underpants being strung from The Fair Traders Co-
operative shop and across the river to celebrate the positive impact that fair trade has on the lives
of millions of people around the world. The pants will be displayed along a string which will also
showcase local people’s fair trade messages written on Fairtrade bunting, as part of a record-
breaking attempt being organised by the Fairtrade Foundation.
The theme of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight (28th February – 13th March) is ‘show off your label’,
encouraging people to shout about their commitment to fair trade. Groups around the country will
be stringing up Fairtrade bunting, which will later be sewn together by the Fairtrade Foundation in
an attempt to beat the world record for the longest piece of bunting. Thanks to generous donations
of Fairtrade cotton pants by ethical companies Who Made Your Pants?, Pants to Poverty and
People Tree, The Fair Traders Co-operative and the Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group are
planning to add bloomers to their bunting.
As well as the bunting launch, events at The Fair Traders Co-operative on 5th March will include
an opportunity to view a collection of Fairtrade cotton bags that have been decorated and signed
by celebrities including Joanna Lumley, Patrick Stewart, David Cameron, Fern Cotton and Simon
Armitage. Workshops will be running at The Fair Traders Co-operative twice a day between 23rd
and 26th February at which people will be invited to decorate their own Fairtrade bags and write
their messages on the bunting that will be strung across the town.
Fairtrade pioneer, Monica Norley, co-founder of leading ethical body care company, Visionary
Soap, will be attending events at The Fair Traders Co-operative on 5th March. Monica is
leading ‘an inspirational evening’ on Friday 4th March at the shop, at which she will tell the amazing
story of her company, its products and the compelling human stories behind the ingredients used
in Visionary Soap’s Fairtrade range.
To link in with Traidcraft’s ’Big Brew’ theme for Fairtrade Fortnight, those attending the workshops
and the bunting launch will be able to enjoy a cup of Fairtrade tea or coffee as events (and the
For further information please contact Helen Robinson at The Fair Traders Co-operative
tel: 01484 690515 email: email@example.com
1. The Fair Traders Cooperative is a co-operative selling fairly traded, ethical and
sustainable products from the local area and producer groups across the world.
The shop opened its doors in June 2010 through investments from individuals,
community groups, businesses and other co-operatives, and has an online store at
2. The Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group was established in 2005, and with the support
of local businesses and community organisations gained Fairtrade Town status for the
Holme Valley in 2006.
3. Further details about all these events are available at
4. Fairtrade Fortnight is promoted each year by the Fairtrade Foundation. More information is
available at www.fairtrade.org.uk/show_off_your_label
To most people, cotton has a good image – a soft pure white ‘natural’ product. As a renewable resource grown by an estimated 100 million cotton farms employing 350 million people, processed by millions of factory workers, cotton has great potential to alleviate poverty. In fact, intensive cotton cultivation and associated downstream processing into finished garments and household products, is a very different story.
- These products are often toxic and carcinogenic.
- Those picking and handling the crop, often women and children, are frequently unaware of the dangers – poisoning is common.
- Excessive application causes run off into watercourses killing fish and other wildlife, contaminating water for drinking and irrigation, and thus entering the food chain.
- The result is often:
- Poverty wages, enforced overtime, no holidays, or job security. Workers accommodated in cramped and dangerous ‘hostels’. Widespread exploitation of young girls who are denied education.
- Dangerous working conditions:
- Lung disease in spinning/ginning
- Poisoning, cancer and skin disease in dye-house employees
- Hearing damage in weaving
- Eyesight and Repetitive Strain Injury damage in sewing
- Environmental damage from yarn finishes, dyeing and bleaching
- Heavy metals, chlorine compounds, formaldehyde, and other toxic discharges-human impact too if these enter drinking water supplies.
- Optical brighteners, flame-retardants, biocides, and processing residues can all have health, environmental, or allergenic impacts.
We now need buyers and industry leaders to take up the challenge, catalysing the change needed to clean up the cotton business.
The Fair Traders Co-operative selects products from suppliers that are committed to maximising the positive and reducing any negative impacts resulting from their activities. Every product we sell has an Assessment Label providing consumers with a snapshot of the most significant social, environmental and economic impacts of the products and suppliers involved. We look at the complete supply chain; from the basic raw materials to the finished product. The information is compiled by a panel of our members, shared with the suppliers and placed into the public domain for complete transparency. Those requiring more detail, wishing to comment or ask questions can go to the specific product in the online shop, the Fair Traders Forum, or our Facebook or Twitter pages. In time, we hope that workers (and their communities) involved in making the products will contribute and that suppliers will also post details of improvements they have made.
It is not a perfect system, but it does give consumers a better understanding of, and influence over, the affects of their purchasing choices. It can provide a local context and, if desired, connect them directly with those making the products.