Fairtrade bananas

Over 60 per cent of the British public are unaware of the threats that climate change poses to UK supplies of bananas, cocoa and coffee, according to a new Fairtrade Foundation survey.

In addition, well over three quarters (78 per cent) of Brits say it’s important that people overseas who produce tea, coffee, food, flowers, cotton and other staple products imported by the UK are able to adapt to climate change.

The consumer survey, commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation and run by Opinium, reveals that while public understanding of the links between decent incomes for farmers and climate resilience is low, there is a strong public willingness to address inequality caused by exploitative trade and climate change.

This comes following new research from VU Amsterdam and Bern University of Applied Sciences that has found that over the next three decades, adverse climate conditions will trigger a drastic decline in banana yields in 10 countries, including India, Brazil and Colombia. Furthermore, a rise of just 2.1°C could leave 89.5 per cent of land used to cultivate cocoa unsuitable by 2050.

Racial history

The survey also looked at whether increased public awareness around black history and racial equality in the UK over the last eighteen months had had an effect on individuals’ understanding of exploitative trade, and their subsequent response.

It found that only 27 per cent of Brits had become more aware of the UK’s colonial past and the exploitation that occurred at the hands of the British Empire, rising to just over a third (35 per cent) of those aged between 18-34. In light of increased awareness of historical exploitation, just one fifth (21 per cent) have considered how they can avoid supporting exploitation in today’s trade and supply chains by buying certain products and avoiding others.

In addition, the survey found that one in 10 (16 per cent) respondents believe damaging trade practices are a thing of the past. Nevertheless, it indicated the willingness of the majority to play their part in ending harmful trade practices, with two thirds (67 per cent) saying they would not buy a product if they knew it was linked to human rights abuses or exploitation.

Fairtrade Fortnight

Fairtrade commissioned the survey ahead of Fairtrade Fortnight, its two-week annual campaign that aims to raise awareness about the positive impact of buying Fairtrade products. This year’s Fortnight kicks off on 21 February and will highlight how buying Fairtrade is a simple yet impactful choice people can make to support farmers and workers in low-income countries as they work to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Fairtrade’s Choose The World You Want Festival will run online throughout the two weeks, featuring around 40 virtual events designed to engage and inform people about the harmful impact of the climate crisis on farmers and food supplies. The festival also highlights how decent incomes and support through Fairtrade equips farmers to tackle climate impacts in their communities.

An overwhelming majority (84 per cent) of Brits say that more should be done to prevent harmful trade practices, with seven in 10 (70 per cent) believing that the responsibility to do so lies with governments. Similarly, two thirds (66 per cent) of the public state that it is the job of governments to tackle climate change, with three in five (62 per cent) saying the UK government should treat the climate crisis with the same urgency as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Funding for farmers

With the survey revealing that public appetite for government action on trade and climate is high, Fairtrade is urging supporters to call on UK politicians to deliver on their promises made at COP26 to provide new funding for farmers and workers in low-income countries facing the worst of the climate crisis.

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “It’s clear that the public want to see an end to trade that exploits those who produce the commodities we rely on every day – particularly in the context of climate. Farmers in low-income countries are already using their expertise to tackle climate change, but they urgently need more resources and decent incomes to do so.

'Through Fairtrade Fortnight, and the Choose the World You Want Festival, we want to help more consumers to recognise the role they have in helping farmers and workers adapt to climate change. By choosing Fairtrade, they can make a real, tangible difference to the lives of people who grow much of the food we love to eat in the UK.”