Growing taste for ethical purchases
More and more New Zealanders are choosing products that benefit others in a bid to tackle global poverty. Deputy editor Jenny Ling looks at the rise of the conscious consumer.
Sam Drumm is among a growing number of consumers who want to help alleviate world poverty, one purchase at a time.
The 27-year-old trade justice advocate has been a volunteer for Fair Trade Auckland City Trust for three years.
He was part of a team that convinced Auckland Council to switch to fair trade tea, coffee and hot chocolate for its staff two years ago.
He is also a campaign manager for the Global Poverty Project and is working on its annual Live Below the Line campaign, which sees around 2000 Kiwis sign up to live on $2.25 a day for five days – the New Zealand equivalent of the World Bank extreme poverty line of $1.25 a day.
Since its launch in 2010 more than US$10 million has been raised for more than 90 charities worldwide.
Mr Drumm became interested in the fair trade social movement at school and through his travels.
‘‘I lived in a coffee growing country [East Timor] for a year and got a better understanding of how coffee works – how hard farmers work and how little they get in return.
‘‘That’s a fairly constant story across a lot of commodities.
‘‘Fair trade provides a good solution.
‘‘It’s a fairly simple, powerful decision consumers can make every day that has a tangible positive affect for farmers around the world.’’
And it seems the trend is growing.
New Zealanders spent $45 million on fair trade certified products like coffee, chocolate, cotton, bananas and sugar in 2012 which increased to $52 million in 2013.
‘‘It seems like more and more people are wanting to find more ethical ways of buying everyday products,’’ Mr Drumm says.
‘‘Fair trade certified and Trade Aid products provide that.
‘‘Occasionally it can cost more but where it does I’m confident to say it’s a worthwhile decision to make to spend $1 more on bananas or a few cents more on a packet of tea. ‘‘It’s absolutely justified. ‘‘When people look at the story behind the products they can understand why that extra dollar makes such an impact.’’
Fairtrade is a certification scheme that sets out to tackle poverty and empower producers in developing countries. Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand general manager Steve Knapp says retail sales were ‘‘a couple of thousand dollars’’ when it started in New Zealand in 2005.
‘‘Now it’s $52 million,’’ he says.
‘‘That’s tremendous support from New Zealand consumers.
‘‘People are genuinely more interested in where products have come from and where they’ve been produced.’’
Mr Knapp says though people will always want to bag a bargain, they are starting to weigh up the true cost.
‘‘It’s got to a point where people are asking ‘If I’m buying it for this price, how much is the person making it getting’?
‘‘It’s not just about the price, it’s about the quality and whether it’s being produced in a sustainable way.
‘‘In the end nobody wants to feel like they’ve got a bargain at the expense of kids working in sweatshops.’’
Conscious Consumers is a business accreditation programme which gives the public information about cafes, restaurants, delicatessens, and suppliers that use sustainable products and practices.
It was established by Ben Gleisner in Wellington in 2010 and expanded to Auckland the following year.
There are 12 ‘‘badges’’ businesses can collect by following ethical practices that include free range, fair trade, organic, composting, ecocleaners, eco-packaging, sustainable fish and recycling.
The programme also records collective efforts and results such as helping 700 animals avoid factory-style farming and diverting 227,600 kilos of recyclables from landfill each year.
‘‘There’s a high number and high response from people wanting to know where their food comes from,’’ spokeswoman Adriana Avendano Christie says.
‘‘It’s about making sure what you’re buying is empowering someone else,’’ she says.
Poverty fighter: Sam Drumm is a fan of cafes that uses fair trade products.