Supporting Fairtrade is a Jewish thing to do

Kosher Fairtrade guarantees high standards of kashrut and ethical business

By Gareth Thomas, August 6, 2009

Over the past two years, the world has moved from a food crisis to a fuel crisis to a global financial crisis. People across Britain and around the world are feeling the effects of the economic downturn. But it is the poorest who are most vulnerable. Fairtrade can help.

Last year, we saw riots break out as rising food prices pushed 110 million people deeper into hunger and poverty. For these people, having to pay a little more for food means a choice between feeding themselves or feeding their children. They may have no safe water to drink, no schooling and no health-care. In their world, children die from something as easy to cure as diarrhoea.

In the face of such suffering, some might feel powerless. Yet we can act to prevent this financial crisis from becoming a human crisis. The UK Government is taking action through the Department for International Development to provide food, safe drinking water, health-care and education to some of the poorest people in the world.

Shoppers and businesses across Britain can also make a difference by supporting fairer trade with developing countries and helping poor farmers to earn a fair price for their goods. There are now more than 3,000 Fairtrade certified goods available in the UK, and the rise in Fairtrade sales each year for the past 10 years — including by over 40 per cent in 2008 despite the economic downturn — demonstrates the UK public’s commitment to ethical products.

The Jewish community has been particularly active in supporting Fairtrade. You can buy a wide variety of kosher Fairtrade products — including honey, sugar, ice- cream, fruits, nuts, spices, vegetables and tea. Thirty-nine synagogues have committed to use Fairtrade products.

The Jewish Fairtrade campaign has produced kippot made with Fairtrade cotton by a co-operative of women in India. Divine Fairtrade chocolate, which uses cocoa beans grown by a farmers’ co-operative in Ghana, was also recently declared kosher. Because the co-operative owns 45 per cent of the company, the farmers share in Divine’s profits.

Fair and ethical trade is at the root of Jewish values. A key tenet of Judaism is to “pursue justice” — Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof. One way to do that is to help ensure poor producers get a fair price for their goods. When you buy a Fairtrade kosher product, you know that the product has met the highest possible standards of kashrut, and that the terms of business have met the highest standards of ethical behaviour.

As the recent global financial crisis shows, we are now much closer to people around the world than we ever have been. Many of the problems created or made worse by poverty — war and conflict, international crime, the trade in illegal drugs and the spread of diseases like Aids — affect all of us.

Yet Fairtrade is an example of how we can, through the daily choices we make, help to build a safer, more sustainable and more prosperous world. Fairtrade is today helping to safeguard the futures of more than seven million farmers, workers and families in developing countries.

If you want to learn more about how the Jewish community is supporting fairer trade and helping the global fight against poverty, you can read The Jewish Guide to Fairtrade — available at

Gareth Thomas is the Minister for Trade and Development

Last updated: 12:25pm, August 6 2009


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