Losing sight of why: the fairtrade label debacle

Losing sight of why: the fairtrade label debacle

The Fairtrade scheme is a responsibility and a commitment to the people, societies and countries that grow and produce the raw ingredients on which people in Europe and other so-called developed markets have come to depend. It is an investment in co-operation, stability and growth that benefits the entire grocery value chain. For a company, and B2C brand like Sainsbury’s to even consider dropping it suggests that either there is a problem with the scheme itself or they have a better way of doing the work that the scheme is intended to do.

There does not appear to be anything wrong with the scheme itself, so you have to assume that Sainsbury’s believe switching to “Fairly Traded” is a better solution. From a purely branding perspective, this is a miscalculation. It looks and sounds like obfuscation and a lowering of standards in the pursuit of profit. Being a responsible, ethical and fair 21st century organisation is something most right-minded consumers expect. Whether endorsed through a label or enshrined in its behaviours, this is ‘hygiene factor’ stuff. 

At a time when consumers have lost faith in so many of our institutions, it’s a concern that one of our great brands appears to have lost its heart as well as its head. I would imagine that the it won’t be long before the innovative minds at Aldi and Lidl spot the opportunity. 

Jon is Chief Strategy Officer, Europe at FutureBrand.  He is responsible for the development of our strategy teams, content and thinking across FutureBrand’s EU region. His brand strategy experience includes design, innovation, engagement & architecture across an international mix of consumer and corporate client brands and in sectors including FMCG/ CPG, leisure, retail, luxury, sport & media. Prior to this, he worked in advertising and direct marketing and has a Masters degree in Marketing.

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