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New campaign aims at increasing co-op engagement in Fair Trade

18 October 2010

Canada's two national co-operative associations, together with two organizations involved in the Fair Trade movement, have launched a campaign aimed at engaging more co-ops and credit unions in Fair Trade.

Co-operating for Fair Trade was launched today as part of this year’s Canadian Co-op Week celebrations. It was created by the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) and TransFair Canada in partnership with the Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité (CCCM) and Équiterre. TransFair Canada is the organization that certifies Fair Trade products in Canada, while Équiterre is a Quebec-based Fair Trade and sustainability advocacy organization.

The campaign is a follow-up to a resolution in support of Fair Trade adopted unanimously at CCA’s Annual General Meeting last June. The resolution calls on CCA members to "promote and support the advancement of Fair Trade in Canada through education, Fair Trade procurement policies, investment, overseas support of Fair Trade co-operatives and support for Canadian co-operatives involved in Fair Trade."

The primary goal of the Co-operating for Fair Trade campaign is to encourage at least 100 co-ops, credit unions and co-operative apex organizations to adopt similar resolutions before the International Year of Co-operatives begins on January 1, 2012.

"The co-operative movement has its roots in the pursuit of fairness," said CCA executive director Carol Hunter. "In Canada, co-ops first developed when farmers banded together to get a better deal in processing or marketing their products; when consumers looked for a community-based alternative to the company store; and when low-income people formed credit unions because they couldn’t get loans from commercial banks. It therefore makes sense that the co-op sector would support a movement aimed at ensuring fairness for producers in the developing world."

Shannon Sutton of Transfair Canada also cited the natural link between co-operatives and Fair Trade.

"The majority of Fair Trade producers are members of co-ops and many sell to, or work closely with, Canadian co-ops," she said. "Through this campaign, we want to showcase the amazing work of co-ops engaged in supporting and promoting Fair Trade, while also generating greater awareness of Fair Trade within the Canadian co-op sector."

What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade seeks to change the terms of trade for the products we buy from developing countries — to ensure that the people behind those products get a better deal. This includes fair prices, social and economic premiums, fair and safe labour, environmental sustainability, access to credit, and long-term contracts for producers.

Fair Trade is both a global movement and a certification system aimed at ensuring that producers in the South - most of whom are members of co-operatives - are treated fairly. In Canada, TransFair Canada is responsible for ensuring that products bearing a Fair Trade mark meet international Fair Trade standards.

While Canadian consumers are most familiar with Fair Trade coffee and chocolate, a wide range of products can be certified as Fair Trade, including tea, sugar, fruit, nuts, flowers, cotton products and sports balls.

More information about the campaign, including a downloadable Action Guide, is available at www.transfair.ca/coop

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