Lewisham Fairtrade

Last night was a sleepless one for Brockley Central. For one long year, we have dreamed of the day that Lewisham Council press office added us to their media list. Then, just when we had given up hope, this press release was emailed to us. So we really don’t want to sound ungrateful, but we can’t help ourselves.

Just to be perfectly clear, we think Fairtrade is a fine thing (although it’s also worth acknowledging that there is a big debate about whether Fairtrade is the most effective solution to the problems it attempts to address).

But, why is Lewisham Council doing this?

We appreciate that the Council has a cultural remit and that this exercise won’t cost a lot of money, but every initiative has an opportunity cost – time, energy and focus spent doing this when they could be doing something else (like supporting the Brockley MAX, or fixing the railings on Brockley Road).

Brockley Central used to work for a quasi-public organisation, which had a lot of money to spend and no shareholders breathing down their necks or profit margins to hit. As a result, if someone came up with an initiative, they tended to be given license to do it, regardless of whether it was necessarily a very good idea. Consequently, the organisation ran a plethora of campaigns and initiatives, none of which was very effective. All organisations need focus. We question whether Fairtrade is what Lewisham Council should be focusing on.

We’d also like to know what Mayor Bullock actually means when he says Lewisham is a Fairtrade borough. Does that mean that Lewisham Council insists that all its suppliers source Fairtrade products? Have they banned non-Fairtrade products from the staff canteen? We’d wager not.

Still, here are the details, and thanks to Lewisham Council press office for sending them to us, we hope to be more positive next time.

Lewisham Celebrates Fairtrade Fortnight 2008

As Fairtrade Fortnight 2008 approaches, Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, is encouraging residents to help change the lives of people in the developing world by choosing Fairtrade products.

To mark the event, Lewisham has been running a competition to write a song about fairtrade issues for anyone who lives, works or studies in the borough. The finalists have been chosen and they will be performing their work in front of a panel of judges at Blackheath Halls on Friday 7 March.

The winning prize is a day in a studio to record the song and the chance to perform it live at Lewisham People’s Day on 12 July 2008.

Fairtrade involves paying farmers and other workers in poor countries a fair price for their goods and produce – and means communities can afford to invest in healthcare, education and more sustainable methods of production.

Sir Steve said: “By choosing Fairtrade we can allow others to make changes towards a better life as it enables producers in developing countries to lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty.

“Lewisham is proud to be a Fairtrade borough and will continue to encourage consumers to make a small change in what they eat, drink and wear.”

Lewisham achieved Fairtrade status in 2005, with many shops, cafes and community venues all offering products certified as Fairtrade. Each year the borough renews its commitment to Fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight.

The finalists of the Fairtrade music competition will perform at Blackheath Halls on Friday 7th March 2008 at 7pm. Limited free tickets are available. If you are interested please email your name and address to: lewisham4fairtrade@lewisham.gov.uk or call 020 8314 7778.

53 comments:

ElijahBailey said...

What a load of bollocks.

Pete said...

"But, why is Lewisham Council doing this?"

Presumably because they believe that it is what the electorate want? The Fairtrade initiative must be something that the Greenparty would be involved with (not that I know for sure) and we have several green councillors. It seems logical to me?

Of course there are other things that they could be spending the money on but you could argue that for just about everything. Even trees!

Tom said...

Haha succinct as ever Elijah!

Fairtrade is a nice idea but it has its problems. It is well meaning but probably not - in its current form - a panacea to solve all ills.

Left-leaning councils jumping onto the bandwagon probably care little about this and just like the fact they can press release a positive story.

And no, Sir Bullock has yet to respond to my query on local crime, suggesting that airy press releases on intractable global issues are preferred to actually sorting stuff out at home.

ElijahBailey said...

"Left-leaning councils jumping onto the bandwagon probably care little about this and just like the fact they can press release a positive story"

Exactly. It can go in their "Aren't We Lovely And Great" pamphlets.

What next? Lewisham a nuclear free zone?

"Mayor Bullock is campaigning tirelessly to make sure no new nuclear power stations are built within Lewisham borough"

Brockley Nick said...

@Pete - Fairpoint! I have argued the same in the past - that it is easier to say what people shouldn't be doing than what they should be. But in this case, I think they have completely overstepped their remit and it sounds as though it was driven by someone within the Council who personally feels passionately about it, rather than based on what the electorate wants. I don't think anyone votes Green in the hope that they will organise a Fairtrade singing event either. ;)

Even so, if the Council came out and said that all of their catering suppliers across the borough were now being forced to source through Fairtrade, that would be more meaningful, but it would also probably too difficult and expensive. So we get a token gesture instead.

@Elijah - he's been very successful then, hasn't he?!

Pete said...

I agree with the sentiment that they have overstepped their remit. Although if they have switched to fair trade goods in the council canteen at least they would be backing their words with actions.

Ken Livingstone is often guilty of going beyond his remit. His concerns should only be what happens in London just as Lewisham council should be only really concerned with what is happening here in the borough. Councillors often forget this though because they have ambitions beyond being a local councillor. As does Ken because he would like lodon to be an indepent city state like Singapore (see yesterday's guardian).

Anonymous said...

Hahaha! A song about Fairtrade - that's brilliant. You really couldn't make it up.
Well you could and the Daily Mail probably has at some point in one of their regular 'loony left council changes black binbags to binbags of colour' type stories/lies.
And Lewisham plays right into their hands...

ElijahBailey said...

Btw here is what is need to acheive said status:

"1. The local council must pass a resolution supporting Fairtrade and committing to serve Fairtrade coffee and tea at its meetings and in offices and canteens

2. A range of Fairtrade products must be readily available in the area’s shops and served in local caf├ęs and catering establishments (targets are set in relation to population size)

3. Fairtrade products must be used by a number of local work places (estate agents, hairdressers etc) and community organisations (churches, schools etc)

4. The council must attract popular support for the campaign

5. A Fairtrade Steering Group must be convened to ensure continued commitment to Fairtrade Town status"

As you can see it is all radical stuff which cannot be achived without real commitment and concerted effort.

The list is from: http://www.fairtradelondon.org.uk/aims.asp

Kate said...

Maybe BC readers could collaborate to compose a suitable FairTrade song?

Bea said...

Kate - too late the finalists have already been chosen.

But now that Nick's can sleep at night thanks to his new email list membership maybe he can notify us of any further Council competitions. Best kept community trees / digi cams or such like ...

ElijahBailey said...

I was disappointed with the trees/cameras post. I thought it was going to be about which one would be better to give to the local kids to aid in their positive integration into society.

Monkeyboy said...

Fairtrade hoodies? woven by indigenous Nepalease sherpers on home looms using the finest organic yak wool.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

I think its rather funny that people on here are posting more pessimistic view points, when we are maybe faced with a difficult economic climate. Maybe theres a link there? Research please.

As for lewisham council, alot of what they do is complete tosh. It's impossible to hold them to account for much. Even the 'flagship' regeneration plan for lewisham centre looks like any old office park. Wheres the real innovation? Wheres the skill?

... There arn't any.

Vikki said...

Do think people have been a little rough to the council with their comments on the fairtrade stuff.

Whilst I don't know the full in or outs of this particular case, most councils become fairtrade boroughs as a result of being asked to do so by local residents or community activists - be that a local church group, a local Friends of the Earth group or similar, some other local community group perhaps along the lines of a Brockley or Ladywell Society or perhaps even a group of community bloggers....

Once approached the great majority of London Boroughs have either fully signed up or have committed to work towards fairtrade status. The only obvious exception, as far as I know, is Barnet which has taken a decision to say 'no' to numerous approaches by local community groups there.

Faced with these options I would support Lewisham's decision to, presumably, respond to local people's concerns and become a fairtrade borough. Also think it's fair enough if they want to sing and shout about it. And if they opted into the scheme off their own back then fair play to them for pre-empting local residents.

As to the criteria for being a fairtrade borough, and whether this is something that should or should not be in a council's remit, surely these are questions to pose to the Fairtrade Foundation?

Pete said...

"As to the criteria for being a fairtrade borough, and whether this is something that should or should not be in a council's remit, surely these are questions to pose to the Fairtrade Foundation?"

I would say that it is well within the Fairtrade Foundation's remit to encourage councils to become fairtrade. Whether it is within a council's remit to listen to these overtures is what is debateable.

Vikki said...

We can agree to disagree then!

Maybe the question should be what benefits do the Fairtrade Foundation think come out of it being in the council's remit? Anyways I still think good on the council for listening.

And if one of the main thrusts of this is giving local shoppers more choices when they are out shopping then I think that's something within a council's remit and something that would appeal to lots of people on this blog?

There are endless comments on here about improving local shopping options and promoting local shops and produce and having vibrant shopping streets. Whilst I know that's something different we could follow in the footsteps of those behind the successful campaign to make Lewisham a fairtrade borough, confident in the knowledge the council would listen to our overtures, and start a local shopping initiative? The council could run and promote a week of shopping local events, run a reward scheme, produce a directory of local shops, offer grants to local shopowners, pass a resolution to support local shops, attract popular support for the campaign...

Vikki said...

Oh and send out a press release about it...

Anonymous said...

Lewisham council is fond of gesture politics. Lots of pronouncements that appeal to vocal minorities, but little of real substance.

It is really nice to know that we live in a borough that deals with the big issues that face the world today. We have had Black History month, Safer neighbourhoods now we have Fairtrade. So that's Racism, Crime (more cctv) and the Environment sorted. Gay rights? Well a float at Gay Pride should suffice. Are we still an anti-nuclear borough, haven't seen a sign up for ages.

I really wish they would stick to matters that are to do with providing efficient council services instead of these facile gestures.

Who do they think they are kidding?

Tamsin said...

I don't think we ever were properly a nuclear free borough - they forgot the goods trains full of low grade waste trundling through.

How many trees have they destroyed printing 10,000s of leaflets saying they are all green and freetrade?

chap said...

Fair Trade? wouldn't say I was against it but it does seem to be more of a middle class lifestyle choice thing. Bit like The Shop On The Hill. Went there, bought some tasty things and felt suitably smug......but they do sell bottled water.

Bottled water is just daft and NOT green! It possibly tastes SLIGHTLY better, but you can get the same affect by buying a water filter.

(keeps head down for the barrage of abuse...)

Tamsin said...

Used to buy bottled water and then saw a programme about bottling plants and never again!! (Except when I want the fizz!)

Cheaper, of course, to buy lager from Tescos - but that's another issue. (Although it is reminiscent of the pre-Victorian days when every household brewed its own small ale as the alcohol killed the germs in the water that came out of wells next to the privy.)

tyrwhitt michael said...

I suspect Hogarth would recognise many of our City centre streets on a Saturday night as reminiscent of his time.

Gin Lane anyone?

jon s said...

Tokenistic piffle, and it doesn't bother me one way or the other, a bit of delivery defict though.

Are they going to crack down on all allotment owners who sell their produce when produced at below the minimum wage?

Sue Luxton said...

Blimey you're a cynical lot today!!! I sense we're not going to agree on this one Nick! Pete is right to suspect the Greens had a hand in this - it was a motion proposed to Full Council by Darren Johnson a few years back, when he was a lone Green councillor, that led to Lewisham becoming a Fairtrade borough. As others have noted, to be a Fairtrade borough, Lewisham has to, amongst other things, use fairtrade tea & coffee at the town hall and have a certain number of businesses selling fairtrade products. Each year, as you point out, there are a series of events to promote Fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight - one year focussed on fairtrade in schools, last year a fashion show featuring fairly-traded clothes from national and local firms was held and this year there is a song-writing competition. I think it's absolutely right that Lewisham should have an ethical procurement policy, and that fairtrade should feature amongst the criteria.

No, fairtrade isn't as effective as reforming world trade laws, but it's a lot better than just burying your head in the sand and feeling disempowered!

I'm quite involved with the Fairtrade Steering Committee, which comprises representatives from a number of local organisations such as Lewisham Oxfam Campaigns, South London World Development Movement and various churches and I can assure you that the budget allocated to promote fairtrade is miniscule and a large part of the work is carried out by committed volunteers.

Responsibility for promoting fairtrade within the borough is about to pass over to the economic development team (town centre managers etc), which I think makes sense as they are the people who work most closely with local businesses and can both work to promote those businesses flying the flag for fairtrade (including many Brockley businesses such as Toad's Mouth, Moonbow Jakes, Shop on the Hill) while also, for example, suggesting to some of the cash and carrys that they stock fairtrade (many currently don't, which is one of the reasons why so few small shops sell fairtrade products, and one of the reasons I don't buy tea, coffee, sugar etc from my local shop).

Oh, and I posted about this on my blog a few days ago: http://greenladywell.blogspot.com/2008/02/fairtrade-fortnight-25th-feb-9th-march.html

ElijahBailey said...

I don't think it is that cynical to find the idea of London, one of the big 3 financial centres in the world, becoming a 'Fairtrade City' rather laughable and that in case of Lewisham specifically it is just a bit of 'green-wash' to make the council look good.

Anonymous said...

Lewisham Council, please just pick up the litter and keep the borough working properly.

Do the job you're are elected to do.

Brockley Nick said...

Hi Sue

Thanks for explaining in more detail. I hope I made clear I support the principle of Fairtrade, I just don't see it as Lewisham Council's remit to promote it and I don't think a singing contest is the right way to do it. If a private company wanted to promote itself as a "Fairtrade company", it would have to do a lot more than pay lipservice to the issue, it would have to completely change its purchasing and supply chain approach. It does smack of Greenwash, though of course, Fairtrade isn't a "green" issue.

It doesn't need Lewisham Council to tell places like Toad's Mouth, Moonbow Jakes and The Shop on the Hill to stock fairtrade - the owners and the majority of their customers will already support it. If you said that the Council had convinced Tony's Cafe to stock Fairtrade I'd be more impressed :)

Anonymous said...

Show me the money.

How much money will Lewisham redirect from its regular expenditure to verifiably ethical sources?

Such a crass question, but impoverished producers cannot live on high minded principles and political gestures.

If this is a statement of principle then the council needs to be held to account. Hopefully this is just the start of a fundamental change rather that a feelgood gesture.

max said...

There's so much speaking of British values and fairness is one of them.

Fair trade is a very British way to support worker's rights abroad, it fits with the traditional internationalist agenda of the left and as the Council is the expression of the political views of the Borough and that looks like being to the left I think it is an initiative that is justified.

Anonymous said...

Internationalist agenda? I didn't vote for that in the local council elections. That is what General Elections are for. I mean local issues may not be glamorous or very exciting but a council that has delusions of political grandeur risks straying into the territory that it has neither the budget nor the machinery to manage. Makes me wonder if they are planning fact finding missions to exotic locations at the tax layers expense.

max said...

Well, that's how I would describe an initiative like Fair Trade.

As Cllr Sue Luxton explained, it doesn't really cost much as it is mostly run by volunteers so, given its laudable aims and its cost-effectiveness I really have no objections to it.
Moreover I'm quite pleased that little Lewisham Council manages to do something good beside collecting the rubbish (that in all fairness does reasonably well) and that the people we elected have some ideals too and are not just bean-counters.

Sue Luxton said...

Lewisham's procurement policy. I'm not about to defend it in full; there is, as always, plenty of room for improvement, but Lewisham has done some laudable things:

* for a number of years it has sourced at least 80% of the electricity it uses from renewable sources, currently a wind/hydropower station in Scotland (can't remember which).
* Wheelie bins are sourced from a company that uses recycled plastic (though I believe they come from Germany as they aren't produced in the UK)
* All the tea and coffee in Council-run cafes is fairtrade (but we absolutely could do better in persuading the leisure centre and library contractors etc to do the same)

There are of course lots of things that Lewisham does not do in an ethical way, not least its investments in its pension funds,and spending £16,500 on bottled water for staff each year because it doesn't have sufficient supply of tap water at all its offices, but that's another story.

The Council's Green Procurement Guide can be viewed in full at http://tinyurl.com/ytjyps if you are interested.

Fairtrade Fortnight is an opportunity for businesses to promote their ethical stance, if they have one, and one of the Council's many remits (collecting your rubbish is just a small part of what the Council does) is to support local businesses and encourage economic development in the borough, something Brockley Central readers are generally v keen to see in the area. Therefore it seems entirely appropriate to me that Lewisham should expend a small amount of resources on promoting this. It's not so much about nagging companies to sell fairtrade as giving welcome publicity to those that do.

And Elijah - I agree with you about the huge inequity driven by the financial markets, but it's not going to stop me taking small steps forward just because I can't bring down the WTO as a Lewisham councillor - wish I could though ;)

jon s said...

Procurement is a small part of the picture. How about Lewisham gets a sourcing manager - very different from a procurement manager to save million of pounds annually on all outsourced contracts and deliver a better quality of service?

Then a very small percentage of the difference can be spent on fairtrade (if it must) and the rest on upgrading the borough, including Brockley High St.

jon s said...

Of course I meant Brockley Rd......

Anonymous said...

I think purchasing power should be given more thought here; Jon S said "Procurement is a small part of the picture" - I disagree.

There are only 33 boroughs in London and if some go Fairtrade, others follow and soon, you know what? Millions of cups of fairtrade public sector tea are being drunk. So demand for Unfairtrade tea goes down. I hope.

Plus, pinging out a press release on fairtrade goods would take about two hours of a good press officer's time. Hardly expensive.

I did wonder where Pete had got a fairtrade bee in his bonnet from; I'm marrying him and he brought it up last night, me having assimilated fairtrade goods in to the kitchen without him noticing. Horay for Co-Op white chocolate! And horay for a good old debate.

nicola name said...

Completely agree with Nick - while possibly a positive policy (and that's not clear either by the way - arguably freetrade helps poorer countries more) it is just not Lewisham's job to be Fairtrade, nuclear free or the solvers of African poverty.

More prosaically, it is Lewisham's job to run the borough, empty the bins, represent the voters and for goodness sake do something about the schools.

delusions of taxpayer funded grandeur methinks.

do the job you're supposed to do. if you dally with these other issues, the voters will assume you have no solutions to offer for the current issues of the borough.

max said...

Watch out Sue, you don't want to be too clever or next time the Brockley folk will vote for somebody that knows what's their place.

Danja said...

There are of course lots of things that Lewisham does not do in an ethical way, not least its investments in its pension funds

Given the massive deficit that exists, and which we pay through the nose for, I am very grateful that they haven't hamstrung themselves on the investment side as well.

nicola name said...

Max, it's a question of knowing the job they are elected and, don't forget, PAID to do.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Like wishing and aiming to bring down the WTO? I'm completely shocked an elected representative actually said that. Maybe Sue needs to go and learn about the reasons why the WTO was set up in the first place.

Sue's comments are completely disagraceful, smacks of ignorance. Sue, you should be ashamed.

max said...

Nicola, all the members of the Council belongs to a Party or another, parties are political institutions, people belongs to them because they share their political incline.
They have opinions, and you vote for them because of their opinions, when they're elected they decide on action according to their opinions.
Those opinions can can be uncontroversial like roads without potholes need resurfacing or of a different nature like giving support to workers that are still in a next to slavery status in developing countries by subscribing to the fair-trade initiative.
Councils are political bodies, they reflect the opinions of the electorate and are entitled to take the decisions that they consider opportune, it is of course opportune for them to explain the reasons of their decisions but it isn't out of their reach to decide on actions that are of a different nature than resurfacing roads and all the usual upgrade and maintenance of the borough's assets.
Another example, when there was the tsunami two years ago I remember Lewisham Council immediately donated some money, I don't remember the sum, maybe £20k. Good.
Would you say that they wasted taxpayers money?
I don't, I say that they showed solidarity with people in need, they weren't borough residents but they were people nevertheless.
The tsunami example is more dramatic but of the same nature.
You want something done for the schools? Well, giving money to the tsunami, subscribing to the fair-trade initiative or any other initiative like that gives a good example to our children, it shows them that they are part of a society that's caring and charitable, that's good education.

But what about all the other decisions that have a degree of politics attached?
Schools, academies, independent schools, isn't that politics?
Rubbish, incinerate the lot and save money or recycle and reduce the environmental footprint of the borough but at a cost.
Trasports, housing, social care, ins't all political?

Don't you want people to have a bloody opinion in those heads?

It's very interesting to read your views on the Council's role.
I'm afraid I think you forgot to spell out what it is that you think that is.

If I have to describe what I think that is in a simplistic way than our Councillor's job is that of representing the electorate at Council, listen to the issues raised by those that contact them and act on them within a timely fashion, attend meetings, read the papers and occasionally cast some vote.
They still have the right to their political opinions and if they use those opinions to bring forward other initiatives they are being honest with those that elected them on those basis.

What I think they are not is some sort of slaves, our Councillors are paid, yes, but they don't make a fortune really, if you know the rates and you're realistic you'd come to the conclusion that if one Councillor is working more than one day a week for his/her Council's job then he or she is giving away time for free.
Unless you consider that of the Councillor some sort of unskilled labour but then don't expect them to open your letters or being able to articulate your concerns at Council.
You want quality people, then pay for it.
Any other job gives them the same money and a lot less hussle.

max said...

APP&P, Sue was referring to the WTO as the organisation that actually exists, not the ideals behind its setting up.
The WTO has great responsibilities in pushing unregulated free market reforms to countries that were not ready for it.
Free market is good for those that can compete, not for those that have no structured economy and are just chewed up by the big boys as they set foot in the market.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

...i think you will find it is abit more complicated than that max, but good try at defending what was a pretty cras comment from an elected official. Just imagine if the sun got hold of that, lewisham council wants to bring down the WTO. great advertising for the area - well done sue!

max said...

Yeah, the Sun, if only it was printed on some softer paper.

Anonymous said...

There are actually a lot of tax payers in the borough who come from the areas were affected by the tsunami, especially South India and Sri Lanka. It seems entirely appropriate, given this connection, that the council should make a contribution to the relief of a shocking natural disaster.

However, a lot of other council initiatives seem to be little more than gimmicks that try the patience of the electorate because it is sign that the councilors are not focusing on the service given to the tax payers and are rather too interested in their own higher agenda.

Fairtrade is a noble cause, but such policies should be developed as part of a normal process. They become devalued if they are associated with political 'grandstanding'. There is far too much of this in London.

max said...

Anon, I agree in principle with what you say about grand-standing but the fair-trade initiative is about the promotion of a practice rather than the practice itself so it would be completely ineffective if it was done without publicity.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

...and then it becomes a cost issue.

Use the money wisely on central resources and not on some sort of wishy washy ideal that lewisham does not have a mandate for in the first place.

Is anyone else ashamed to be represented by an elected official who wants to bring down the WTO? I'm still quite shocked by that comment. Such an ignorant thing to come out with.

Pete said...

No I'm not ashamed at being represented by someone wanting to bring the WTO down. It's semi Green Party policy, Sue Luxton is a member of the Green Party. Where is the conflict there?

http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2559
Stop fishing.

ross said...

"Is anyone else ashamed to be represented by an elected official who wants to bring down the WTO?"

not in the slightest (would be ever better if she really meant it)

Anonymous said...

Criticism of the WTO is fair game. It promotes policies that favour rich countries at the expense of poor ones.

nicola name said...

Does noone think that maybe, just maybe it is not some SE London councillor's job to be on about the WTO? and that maybe just maybe there might be enough going on in se4 to keep them pretty well occupied...

(Apparently there isn't but that's another story..!)

Pete said...

I don't agree with you Nicola. Of course there is plenty to occupy our local councillors locally, but this does not stop them from acting locally to influence things globally. Why shouldn't the council act ethically? Unless of course you believe that ethics are something that should only be handled by the UN?

Anonymous said...

Its everyone's job to be concerned about the world around them. If WTO issues feel too distant, have a think about how many of Lewisham's most vulnerable people have started out their lives / or have close connection to, places at the sharp end of WTO policies. The council serves an extremely diverse, and international population, and their needs permeate political borders. Personally I wouldn't want it any other way.

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