Fair trading, fair tracing

As a brutally strong coffee sits before me, I cannot let fairtrade fortnight pass without mention. There’ve been plenty of supplements and recipes and articles flying around the media this week. Most interesting for me was probably this morning’s interview with Penny Newman, the CEO of CafeDirect (in the Guardian). Interesting for the insight it gives into how the company has grown and evolved, and for their plans for diversification (international, new products, not-at-home market). This suggests that the direct retail in supermarkets is not where they see fast growth lying…although their new branding and products look more like Nestle and Kenco than the more aspirational, high-end brand of old (Machu Picchu and the rest). Like the logo though.

Penny also mentions towards the end of the article that she would like to mentor more social entrepreneurs. Certainly, the SSE Fellows mentored by her have benefited enormously from her experience, so we hope we can broker more such relationships in the future.

A final, related note on an idea that I ran across via the Doors of Perception conference taking place in Delhi: Fair tracing. The core of the concept is to use digital tracing technology to enhance the credibility fo the fair trade model. It’s a brief glimpse into the future of supply chains:

"At each stage of the product’s journey, information may be added and/or
edited and, if the information is stored digitally on the internet, may
be of various multimedia types. The ability to access this rich
information at the point-of-sale will empower the consumer to make an
informed comparison between competing products before finalising
his/her purchase."

[Worldchanging has commented on the idea as well, which is worth a read.]

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2 thoughts on “Fair trading, fair tracing

  1. I know that the transparency of Fairtrade regimes has been questioned by activists a lot recently, but I’m not convinced that this extends to consumers. Most people just see the label and buy it. If this kind of information is to be useful, consumers need to get much more engaged with the products they are buying. This is a huge cultural problem – not just a technological one.

  2. You may be right Dan, just thought it was an interesting idea. Perhaps it will become of more value as fair trade is more widespread, and there is a requirement for differentiation within it, rather than it simply being the differentiator (?) from traditional business itself.
    Thanks for the comment