The next product line of fair trade could well come from Italy and thereby become the first example of local Fair Trade. Fueled by the crisis, in fact, issues such as decent working conditions, fair price, sustainability in supply chains have become part of the 'home territory' and no longer belong only to the southern part of the world. Quite the opposite. In a strange reversal of roles, India, Brazil, South Africa and Kenya have started to consume (and not just produce) certified foods. In the past year, in fact, in these countries there is a part of society, no matter how tough things get, that prefer (and can afford) ethical supply chains; in other words, those that can provide better living and working conditions for producers. Has the world been turned upside down? Not really. But certainly things are changing very rapidly. We spoke with the president of Fairtrade Italia
, Andrea Nicolello Rossi..
Your organization just turned 20. Can you sum up the road you have taken so far?
Twenty years ago, the challenge was to make fair trade products accessible, available and different. Did we succeed? The numbers say so. Today, Fairtrade International has a turnover of €5.5 billion (up 15% on 2012), involving 1.4 million people and 74 producer countries. There are now 120 countries that sell our products, and not just food, but also cotton, craft products, and so on.
What was the highlight of the past 20 years?
Without doubt, it was the change in our company status two years ago. For the first time ever, we decided that 50% of the board of directors be made up of representatives of producers, who now sit alongside the distributors. By assuming responsibility in equal measure is of great significance. For the first time, an historic producer of Santo Domingo, Marike De Pena, has taken on the role of president.
At Expo Milano 2015 you will be present as a Civil Society Participant in the Cocoa Cluster. Why did you choose this product?
It seemed like an interesting way to combine the concept of 'goodness' on two levels – ethics and taste – and then it is a product that really appeals to the general public. Of course we will give space to all food certificates, which will also be displayed under the Solidal brand, in the supermarket of the future, and merchandised by Coop Italia in the Future Food District.
Which issues do you wish to stress with visitors to the Universal Exposition?
The initial question that Expo Milano 2015 raises – Is it possible to assure food that is good, healthy, sufficient and sustainable to mankind? – begs a further question: Can we ensure that the food is fair for those who produce it?
In fact we see a paradox: 70% of the world's food is produced by 500 million small farms, but of the people managing them, half have nothing to eat and are trapped in a state of poverty, worsened by decades of price volatility, a lack of resources to invest, global inflationary pressures and the negative effects of climate change: an economic hourglass that is squeezing farmers. We want to bring this situation to light and share details of the alternatives offered by Fairtrade.
Today there are many companies, both Italian and foreign, that seem to have taken up your challenge. How do you support them?
Ever since we set up our company, we have always made ourselves available in developing partnerships with the world of profit. To help large groups to apply the criteria of fair trade in their supply chain, we introduced an innovative commercial program, called Fairtrade Sourcing Program (FSP) in 2014. It is a program that allows companies to support, through our network, organizations in Asia, Africa and Latin America that produce cocoa, sugar and cotton. With supply programs for certified raw materials, we support companies in developing a sustainability strategy that involves buying increasing amounts of Fairtrade raw materials.
What are the numbers and the prospects of Fairtrade in Italy?
In Italy, in 2013, we achieved a sales turnover of 76.3 million euro, with 130 Italian licensed companies and more than 5,000 representative stores. And, paradoxically, during the most acute period of crisis, sales increased by 16.7 percent vs. 2012. It is a sign of the growing tendency of Italians to consume less, but better. And the proof is the fact that where our label is organic, the combination works particularly well.