Happy Birthday to the Fairtrade mark - and to ecommerce.
This year marks 20 years since the introduction of the Fairtrade mark, the now (almost) ubiquitous label of fairness when buying food and clothes. In the UK we have been slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to Fairtrade, though there's no room for complacency. There's also an argument that the mark has created some confusion as well as creating a reliable benchmark. Many products aren't covered by the mark, for example - it mostly applies to commodities like coffee, sugar, cotton and the like, and doesn't adapt very well to craft and artisan produce.
Nevertheless, the way the Fairtrade mark has broken through to the mainstream acts as a beacon to those of us working to make trade fairer. It's a model of how, in a relatively short period of time, you can bring ideas about sustainability and social justice into customers' homes.
This year is also another twenty year anniversary. In 1994, the world's first secure online transaction was processed (it was for a Sting CD, fact fans). When you think about everything we buy online nowadays - holidays, groceries, electronics and everything else under the sun - it seems almost impossible to believe that a very short time ago such a thing was simply not an option. Put into perspective, the rise of the Fairtrade mark doesn't seem quite as stratospheric.
Where the two intersect is the way in which modern technology allows us to trade fairly with people across the world in ways which wouldn't have been practical a few years ago. We can pay suppliers at the click of the button rather than waiting for lengthy overseas transactions to clear. We can receive catalogues and photos from artisans illustrating the real difference that fair trade is making to their lives. Communication by email, Skype and social media allow us to feel connected with our partners around the globe.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the Fairtrade mark, the Faitrade Foundation have relaunched their website. We wish the Fairtrade mark - and the Fairtrade movement - many happy returns for the future.