REACHING PRODUCERS THROUGH BUYER FINANCE
Despite the progress made in increasing the availability of financial services, the majority of people living in developing countries struggle to access finance.
Through our lending, we empower smallholder farmers and artisans to improve their business operations, access commercial markets, create employment opportunities and to contribute to the alleviation of poverty in their respective communities.
We do this by lending money in two ways: directly to fair trade producer groups (producer lending), and to fair trade buyers
Fair trade buyers are required to provide producers with a 50% payment on placing the order as per the WFTO Fair Trade Principles. This can place financial pressure on the buyer’s cash flow and Shared Interest plays a vital role in filing this gap by sending money to producers on behalf of the buyer; we call this a ‘recipient producer payment’. This year, we made 1,589 recipient producer payments to 253 organisations in 52 countries.
In 2018, Shared Interest lent money to 32 buyer organisations and a large proportion of this was to pay producers in Asia, primarily in Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and the Middle East. Due to political and economic constraints, it is difficult or impossible to lend directly in these regions, and without these buyer organisations, many producer groups would have limited market access.
On the following pages are some examples of buyer organisations we are working with in the UK to provide vital access to working capital, helping the producers they work with thrive.
Managing Director, Melanie Traub, spoke to members and supporters at our recent York event. Here she tells us about what it is like to work in fair trade.
Why do you work in fair trade?
I have worked in retail for many years now and have travelled around the world and seen how clothes are made. I have seen some of the best and some of the worst factories. Once you have had that opportunity, it makes it an easy decision to work in fair trade. It means you know that those working in the factories and farms are getting a fair price and proper working conditions for the goods they work so hard to make.
Do you have a message for Shared Interest investors?
The ongoing support from Shared Interest has made a real difference to us as a business and ultimately, our producers.Shared Interest supported us when trading was tough. When orders picked up, we struggled with cash flow to order enough goods to meet the demand – Shared Interest was there to help us again. So my message is simple – thank you.
You can read more about People Tree at peopletree.co.ukRead the full interview
Tropical Wholefoods is one of Shared Interest’s long-standing customers, and has been working with us since 1998. Founding Director, Adam Brett, talks to us about his own fair trade journey.
What does Tropical Wholefoods do?
Tropical Wholefoods works with producer partners who produce dried fruit, vegetable and nut products. We help these partners to improve their systems, so they can produce products of the highest quality standards, supply European customers, and be paid fair prices. We also strive to include good systems for farmer and worker representation, and fairness in the businesses that supply us.
In the UK, we import, store, package and market branded dried fruit and nut products. Virtually all our products are Fairtrade and Organic, and sourced from smallholder farmers. In a few cases, it can be hard to certify products due to low volumes or other issues, but we always try to buy the best products we can.
“Tropical Wholefoods could not exist without the loan we and our partners receive from Shared Interest, so my message is pretty simple: Thank you. Without you, we would not be here.”
What is your favourite fair trade product?
I think I have to say Clipper Fairtrade Tea, as I drink fie or six cups of it every day! I also love the Zaytoun olive oil products – that is another incredibly inspiring fair trade story.
You can read more about Tropical Wholefoods at tropicalwholefoods.com
Little Green Radicals
Little Green Radicals formed in 2005 and became a Shared Interest customer earlier this year, receiving a loan to support their strategy for growth. Their founder, Nick Pecorelli, spoke to us about the challenges they face and why they chose to start a business in fair trade.
What is the most inspiring or surprising encounter you have had with a fair trade producer?
In the early days, I used to love going out to meet producers because I would often end up being invited into their houses. Meeting families and sharing the food on which they depend on so much for their livelihood is quite humbling.
Do you have a message for Shared Interest’s investors?
My message is to simply emphasise the importance of having successful fashion brands in the fair trade space. Products like coffee and chocolate have reached the mainstream. In fashion, I think the complexities of the supply chain and the different ethical issues distract people. Whether it be the use of landfill, poor treatment of workers or pesticide use, the public cannot grapple with them all, and the fair trade message gets diluted or lost.
It is therefore vital that brands with popular products are also advocates for fair trade, and prove it can be done.
You can read more about Little Green Radicals at littlegreenradicals.co.uk