This week I will talk about Fairtrade Sugar.
Sugar, like coffee and cocoa, is one of the most successful Fairtrade products sold in the UK. I clearly remember how in 2008 the Fairtrade world was rocked when the giant Tate & Lyle announced its commitment to convert 100% of its retail branded sugar to Fairtrade.This was one of the biggest switches ever to be made to Fairtrade, and according to the Fairtrade Foundation website, the increase in the total volumes of Fairtrade sugar sold in comparison to the previous year as a result was around tenfold! Now that is significant.
But, of course, sugar as a commodity has an enormous amount of history and the bit that really interests me is the sugar boycotts of the late 1700s when , thousands of pamphlets were printed both in the UK and the USA which encouraged people to boycott sugar produced by slaves. According to the BBC's History website around 300,000 people abandoned sugar resulting in sales dropping by a third to a half.
Hundreds of thousands of people also signed petitions calling for the abolition of the slave trade. Many even supported the campaign against their own interests. The size and strength of feeling demonstrated by these popular protests made even pro-slavery politicians consider the consequences of ignoring public opinion.
Mobilisation of the public remains an essential tool in achieving political change, and it's certainly at the core of the Fairtrade movement. The sugar boycott is one of the earliest examples of consumers using their purchasing power to reject the trade in goods that had not been ethically produced.
I have the greatest admiration to all of those activist around the world, who in most circumstances, lobby for or against something they believe in and dont just ignore the great challenges out there and who are not to wrapped in their own lives to see all the major things that still need changing in the world.
I love some of the images of labels at the time: