Episode #55 - Meet the chocolate company leading the charge for Fairtrade

Show notes

Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off today. 

It’s a UK initiative, led by the Fairtrade Foundation, that runs until 12 March in a bid to bring more awareness to shoppers about where the produce they are buying comes from.

Fairtrade simply means offering fair prices for farmers in the developing world. This enables them to get a sustainable price on the produce they grow and a premium incentive to invest in their own communities.

When organisations sell their products through Fairtrade, they are paid the Fairtrade minimum price. The organisations will receive what’s known as the Fairtrade premium, and it’s up to the farmers and workers to decide how to use the premium.

Options include building wells and hospitals, buying better farming equipment and investing in a switch to organic farming.

By letting farmers and workers decide for themselves what is most important to invest in for their community, they are given vital control towards developing their overall futures as well as their livelihoods.

The Fairtrade movement has achieved so much, but there is a reason that Fairtrade Fortnight – this being the 23rd – is still such a big deal. And that’s because buying Fairtrade is still not front of mind when shoppers make their purchasing decisions.

So, this time around, the Fairtrade Foundation has been working with a new London creative agency to shift its marketing strategy as it looks to engage with consumers emotionally by communicating the “human element” of its work – and what unfair trade looks like.

As Cheryl McGechie, director of public engagement at the organisation told Marketing Week: "Faitrade is often a rational purchase decision; something people feel positive about but in a passive way. We want it to be emotionally engaging."

She highlights, for example, that the smaller farmers it represents are responsible for providing the vast majority of tea and coffee sold in the UK but that they still live in “very impoverished conditions”. 

And that cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast, for example, have to survive on just 40p a day.

Earlier today, the Fairtreade Foundation campaign kicked off. You can check out the video that has been doing the rounds on social media all day that promotes the idea that “no one deserves to be short-changed for a hard day’s work and that with the help of supporters Faitrade can help make it right".

The big boys are certainly ramping up their efforts. In stores and supermarkets you will no doubt see the likes of Cadbury’s owner Mondelez doing more than ever to push the Fairtrade story as it invests $400m in sourcing fives times as much of its chocolate sustainably.

Fairtrade is not an idea many people reject but we want them to increase the frequency that they decide to go to a different café because it is Fairtrade, that they switch chocolate bars, that they decide to buy Fairtrade bananas. "It is about nudging people to change behaviour,” says Cheryl

To mark the kicking off of Fairtrade Fortnight, we thought we’d check in with one of the brands that has been at the leading edge of the Fairtrade movement for the last 20 years. 

Divine Chocolate is a business with a clear social mission and a unique model in that the farmers’ co-operative supplying the cocoa from Ghana is a majority shareholder in the company, with a clear say over how it invests its money and drives the organisation on.

I caught up with the company’s CEO Sophi Tranchell to find out more.

For more information about Divine, about Sophie about the Divine story, just head to the website: www.divinechocolate.com; it's a perfect example of how the Fairtrade movement works and how much it has matured in the last few years.

Divine Chocolate CEO Sophi Tranchell

Divine Chocolate CEO Sophi Tranchell

Episode #50 - How to solve a problem like the promotional products market

Show notes

I wrote a piece for Virgin.com just before Christmas; a sort of 2016 round up piece. And I used it to have a bit of a rant about the UK version of The Apprentice, the very popular TV show that plays out in the run up to Christmas every year.

"As it reaches fever pitch for the interview stage in the final week of the show, the candidates, at last, reveal their business plans," I wrote. "And we are so often given a cold, stark reality check as to the state of business here in the early part of the 21st century."

What annoyed me the most was not the eventual winner Alana and her cake-making business.

It was more her fellow finalist, Courtney who needed Lord Sugar £250,000 money to kick start his novelty gift company. 

"In the place of innovative, creative, smart, circular, low carbon, or social enterprise models, is a collection of drab and dreary, business-as-usual ideas all vying for Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment.

"In fact, if you trawl through the list of past winners – from Ricky Martin’s recruitment agency and Mark Wright’s SEO firm, to Joseph Valente’s plumbing business and Leah Totton’s cosmetic clinic – evidence of sustainable business thinking is very thin on the ground."

I put the novelty products business in the same category as promotional items and marketing merchandise – essentially, mass produced stuff that people don’t really need.

When I was a kid, I would visit the NEC in Birmingham every year with my Dad for the national Motor Show exhibition: a chance for all the big car manufacturers to get together to show off the new models that would be dominating the car show rooms and forecourts for the next 12 months.

My Dad loved it. We’d spend hours trawling between the hundreds of different stands. While he’d pour over the latest models, my brother and I would busy ourselves by grabbing as much free merchandise that was being given out on each stand as our free plastic carrier bags would hold. T-shirts, bags, posters, badges, pens – you name it, car companies would give away an endless amount of stuff emblazoned with their logos in the hope that their brands would ingrain themselves on the memories of anybody that had swung by their stand during the three-day event.

This was back in the 1980s and 1990s. Of course, it is a practice that still goes on today. At your office, on your desk, there is probably some promotional pens, mugs and business card holders. The purpose of these items is to remind you of the company whose name or logo they bear.

But do you actually use these things? Probably not. On average, we get rid of most promotional products within six months, even the ones that we find interesting at first.

As more and more consumers consider the social and environmental costs associated with manufacturing and disposal of products, the promotional items and novelty goods market is one that is changing quickly.

Recognising that it is a market that is not going away any time soon, our guest business this week is determined to find a way to use the industry as communications tool, to get people excited about sustainability, and to create products that are useful, even after their traditional lifecycle.

Meet Michael Stausholm (below), the founder and CEO of Sprout, a promotional products business with a difference.

For more on Sprout, visit the wesbite: sproutworld.com.

This time you will learn:

  1. how Sprout has grown from a €700,000 business to a €2.5 million one in the space of just two years
  2. how Michael wants to make sustainability easier to understand using pencils
  3. how three young MIT students came up with the idea for Sprout pencils
  4. why the pencil is designed to slow people down (and why that's a good thing)
  5. why 80% of Sprout's revenues come from corporates looking to send messages about sustainability to their customers and staff
  6. about Sprout's other product offerings, like paper
  7. why people are the most important contributor to Sprout's success
  8. why grabbing just 1% of the global pencil market would be good news for the planet
  9. why and how Sprout can call companies like Disney, Ikea and Toyota its loyal customers

Episode #40 - Here's what a supermarket SHOULD look like


 

The Better Business Show, in association with Triodos

 
 
 

Show notes

A couple of years ago, the Transition Towns movement carried out a piece of research called the Economic Blueprint to explore how and where people were spending their money in the town of Totnes, in Devon.

It found that £20 million was spent in the town’s two supermarkets on food and drink every year.

In comparison, people spent £10m in the more than 60 independent food shops in and around the town.

The research showed that relative to retail spend, the local food outlets actually support three times more jobs than supermarkets. This trend is mirrored down the food chain, with those producers that provide for local markets employing on average 3.4 full-time jobs compared to the regional average of 2.3 per farm.

Staggeringly, it said that if people could be encouraged to shift just 10% of their food spend away from the supermarkets, it would bring £2m into the local economy.

Supermarkets are no good for local communities. According to this week's guest, around 95p of every £1 spent in a big supermarket leaves the local community.

The spat last week between Tesco and Unilever, which saw the former refusing to stock the range of well known products of the latter due to a price dispute, reminded us once again what a complex, difficult and – let’s face it – brutal market supermarket retailing can be.

From the way supermarkets treat their suppliers, to the wages being paid, to the interaction and engagement with local communities.

And against this backdrop, it makes the subject of this week’s show all the more fascinating.

Imagine taking on the supermarket fraternity at their own well-trodden game. And then taking a completely different approach to the supplier-customer relationship - one that is built on transparency, openness and fairness.

Ruth Anslow, one of 3 directors of HiSbe – which stands for How it Should Be – including her sister Amy – spent 15 years working for suppliers to the big supermarkets in the UK. She saw the problem first hand. But she also saw a great big opportunity to create a new model for supermarket retailing, fit for the 21st century.

Enjoy the show.

Co-founding sisters Amy and Ruth Anslow, with head of supply, Jack Simmonds

Co-founding sisters Amy and Ruth Anslow, with head of supply, Jack Simmonds


Triodos Bank is our partner on the show for the month of October. 

As part of that, we thought it would be a great idea to check in with an organisation of which Triodos is a member: the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). It is an independent network of banks and banking cooperatives from all around the world, who share the same values – the values we have been discussing with Triodos – that shared mission to use finance to support positive economic, social and environmental impact.

To find out more, have a listen to Marcos Eguiguren, the GABV's executive director.

And get involved in the conversation via social media using #BankingOnValues.