FAIRTRADE Fair way to make a difference…

27Mar07

Fair way to make a difference
By Helen Mead

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Cristina Talens on a visit to Kenya
Cristina Talens on a visit to Kenya

Cristina Talens is preparing for a trip to Guatemala.

As ethical trading manager for Harrogate-based Bettys &
Taylors, she travels the world meeting growers at coffee and tea
plantations.

Her work involves looking at the living and working conditions of
the farmers, their pay, hours of work, and also the methods of
production – ensuring that their practices are not carried out at the
expense of the environment.

During her three years in the job, Cristina has built up good relationships with the farmers.

“It is great to be able to meet the growers, to be able to work
with them on the ground to improve conditions. It is also helpful to be
able to pass on information about best practice from other growers and
talk about how to address problems or introduce new techniques that are
practical and sustainable.”

Cristina recalls how, a few years ago, Zimbabwe saw a rapid rise
in inflation, so much so that growers were not earning enough to cover
the cost of production.

“We started to apply a cost matrix'”, she explains. “Which means
that the cost of production is covered, so the grower will make a
profit.”

The concept of ethical trading is not new to the company. For
the past five years buyers have been trained to standards laid down by
the Ethical Trading Initiative – an alliance of companies, trade
unions, development agencies and other non-governmental organisations.

She adds: “Because of the quality of our products, we have
always paid high prices, as well as making sure that the production
conditions are good.”

Bettys & Taylors sources coffee and tea from around 22
countries worldwide. Around 40 per cent of coffee suppliers, from
Central and South American countries including Gualemala, Honduras,
Nicaragua, Colombia and Brazil, operate the Fairtrade system as well as
the producers of breakfast tea in Kenya.

“They are small family-run farms. With the other, larger farms,
we have developed long-term relationships and work together to maintain
standards,” says Cristina.

Tea is generally bought through auction, so is more difficult to monitor,
she says, but checks are made on tea plantations to ensure that the
Ethical Trading Initiative base code of conduct is being met. “We are
looking at how we can drive improvements on the ground with all the
growers.”

Cristina is also involved in an Environmental Benchmarks’
scheme. While in Guatemala she is to meet members of the Rainforest
Alliance – a New York-based organisation that works to conserve
biodiversity and guarantee sustainability – to look at good farming
practice in terms of the preservation of eco systems, forests and
wildlife.

“For instance, we would check the filtration of water into river
systems – we would make sure it is properly filtered and water courses
are not being contaminated.

“We want to know whether trees are being pulled down – we don’t
want indigenous forests cleared to make way for more crops, and we look
at other environmental areas such as how waste is being disposed.

Adherence to the benchmarks is now to be a key area of Bettys
and Taylors company audit, whereas previously the standards were
monitored by the Ethical Trading Initiative.

Bettys and Taylors also operates a Trees for Life project. Since
its launch in 1990, almost three million trees have been planted across
the globe. By buying coffee or tea from the company, shoppers are
helping to fund this work.

Other projects that have benefited from ethical and fair trading include road networks, schools and hospitals.

“I’ve seen change on the ground, that benefits the whole
community through increased investment in the right places,” adds
Cristina.

As more and more green, ethically-minded customers choose to
take factors other than price into consideration when making decisions
on buying goods, both initiatives are being widely adopted. In common
with Taylors and Bettys, many companies now employ staff to work
specifically in these areas, giving the customer further confidence in
their products.

1:19pm Wednesday 28th February 2007



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