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UK fair trade's Gateshead origins
Echamma and Dhanurjay Pujari from India looking through the window of the house they are building with money earned from selling their Fairtrade coffee to Traidcraft
Fair trade is about ensuring marginalised producers get a fair deal

Did you know that the UK fair trade movement originates in the North East? One of the Fairtrade Foundation's founders is a local company.

Set up in 1979, Gateshead-based Traidcraft was one of the first ethical trading businesses in the UK.

Current Traidcraft chief executive, Paul Chandler, says the region is now an international "hub of fair trade".

Other companies in the area include Shared Interest - the world's only 100% fair trade lender.

Social justice

Traidcraft was founded in 1979 by Richard Adams, who became passionate about social justice when studying at Durham University.

With the economy in the north-east England suffering, Richard wanted to help the region and so based the company in Gateshead.

Today, Traidcraft works with more than 100 producer groups in more than 30 developing countries to sell 450 fair trade food, craft and textile products.

It was also one of the founders of the Fairtrade Foundation (formed in 1992), which awards the Fairtrade Mark to products that meet internationally recognised standards of ethical trading.

North East roots

Current chief executive Paul Chandler believes the North East is integral to Traidcraft's identity.

He said: "We're proud of our North East roots, heritage and location.

"Our North East base is part of our culture and is a source of our strength."

He explained that since joining Traidcraft in 2001, many people have questioned why he hasn't relocated the company to London.

Paul Chandler. Photo: Traidcraft/Martin Avery
Paul believes people in the North East have a natural empathy for fair trade

But Paul believes that being based in the North East gives Traidcraft a stronger profile.

He explained that it is one of only a few companies involved in international development in the region, therefore it stands out - in London it would be one of many and may not enjoy such a high profile.

Natural empathy

The aims of the fair trade movement are to contribute to sustainable development for marginalised producers and to campaign for an international trade system based on justice and fairness.

Paul said that another reason for basing Traidcraft in the North East is because it's an area that has a natural empathy with the objectives of the fair trade movement.

He explained: "It's a region that's experienced hard times and economic challenges and has tried hard to work its way out of it."

The North East is now a hub of fair trade on an international level
Paul Chandler, chief executive of Traidcraft

As a result of Traidcraft being located in the region, other fair trade companies have sprung up.

These include Ethical Superstore - which sells a large variety of fair trade products - and Shared Interest, a co-operative lending society that provides credit for fair trade producers and buyers.

It's businesses like these that Paul believes makes the North East "a hub of fair trade on an international level".

Challenges

In terms of sales of fair trade products, the North East is comparable to everywhere else but Paul believes there's more awareness in the region.

He said: "We've got a great network of local activists and supporters.

"There's more momentum up here especially with Newcastle and Gateshead becoming a fair trade city and borough respectively."

In 2001, just 150 items carried the Fairtrade Mark, but now there are around 4,500. However, despite this growth there are a number of challenges facing the fair trade movement.

Paul explained that it is still difficult to change people's mindsets - people often buy fair trade products as a one-off but Traidcraft and other ethical trading businesses want to encourage people to do this as a routine.




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