All Is Not Fair

EDITORIAL
21st August 2008

As you may know, this magazine is a supporter of the concept of fairly-traded coffee, but it’s interesting to see how the Fairtrade organization (run under the auspices of Oxfam aid organization) has become proprietary about the use of the ‘fair trade’ terminology.

Several newspapers have reported a recent spat between McDonalds, which uses Rainbow Alliance coffee [www.rainforest-alliance.org], and the Fairtrade Organization. It centres around the use of the word ‘fair’. The problem is that McDonalds have recently been running TV commercials showing South American coffee farmers, and using the words ‘a fair deal for workers’ in their script.

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The Fairtrade Organisation took exception to this, and McDonalds agreed to change their wording to ‘a great deal for workers’, however it does raise the question – what’s in a brand name, and whether Fairtrade’s branding includes exclusivity over common English usage, such as a ‘fair deal’.

Apparently Fairtrade’s representatives accused McDonald’s and the Alliance of straying away from its core aim – which is to improve the environment – and of moving on to Fairtrade’s turf. But the Alliance’s spokeswoman in London, Anita Neville, hit back at Fairtrade, saying its rivals were ‘denying them the chance to market two out of the three pillars of its program’ (these are ethics, environment and economics).

We have had numerous complaints from coffee roasters in Australia about the attempts to turn Fairtrade into just another (commercial) brand [see: the Forum >> Trade page,]. This latest spat certainly seems to corroborate these complaints.

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