Welcome to Traidcraft - the home of fair trade!
By now, you might have already spent some time exploring Traidcraft’s carefully curated collection of handcrafted ethical gifts, homeware, toys, fashion, and hand-harvested foods – all sourced from fair trade co-operatives, traditional artisans, and small-scale growers around the world.
But just how did they get to where they are today? Where did it all start?
Go on, grab a cup of your favourite fair trade tea, put your feet up, and let us tell you a story.
In 1970, a typhoon swept across Bangladesh, devastating homes and over half a million lives. The world watched as the aftermath unfolded, with political upheavals, conflict, and the birth of an independent Bangladesh.
World development charity Tearfund started to deliver relief to the Bangladeshi people, and in 1974, Richard Adams established a trading arm (Tearcraft), filled a charter aircraft with jute handicrafts, and set off into the sky with the aim of helping the people with trade, as well as aid. Tearcraft made a real difference to the lives of artisans, but it wasn’t long before Richard felt constrained by what the organisation could achieve.
In the summer of 1979, Richard gathered six radical free-thinkers on the top floor of a 1920s warehouse in Newcastle Upon Tyne to launch his new vision – the beginnings of what would become a world-changing fair trade organisation.
Their first handicrafts catalogue was hand-drawn, and featured a selection of what we’d think of today as rather retro jute plant hangers, baskets, and rugs, all sourced from small co-operatives across Bangladesh. Soon, the team started importing the world’s first fair trade tea, coffee, sugar, and chocolate, too. Traidcraft’s future was set.
By founding their own trading company, this movement of radical, church based individuals had committed themselves to proving that fair trade could work professionally. Their plan was simple – they would import goods directly from artisans and growers and distribute them directly to regular people in the UK, cutting out the middlemen. They would start by selling on church stalls and at markets, where they thought that buyers would be interested in the stories behind their purchases. At the time this was revolutionary thinking, and just the beginning of the incredible changes ahead.
World trade has always been dominated by a handful of huge global companies whose names rarely appear on packaging. As of today, just five companies control about 85% of the world’s cocoa trade, and the same sort of percentages exist in most of the everyday commodities we enjoy.
So as you can imagine, options for the honest small-scale coffee bean grower were incredibly limited. Traidcraft provided the growers with the opportunity to sell their beans to the retailer directly, whilst paying more than the usual market price. They sought out small-scale and community growers and traditional craftspeople whose lives depended on their skills, and who struggled to match what the big companies demanded. Their partnership with Traidcraft was going to be life-changing.
But Traidcraft wanted to do even more. The team wanted to get to know the farmers, understand their needs, their dreams, and their ambitions. What we understand today as the principles of fair trade all started with pioneers like Traidcraft — who dared to travel around the world and listen to the people whose products we all take for granted. As time went by, Traidcraft focused on working with their producers to improve the quality of their products as well as their origins. The artisans and farmers can now be even more proud of what they’ve made and grown. Fair trade is no longer about aid – it’s about respecting the artisan and the consumer together.
In 1992, Traidcraft jointly founded the Fairtrade Foundation and helped establish the standards that underpin today's well-known Fairtrade Mark. Getting big companies to adapt to the principles of fair trade hasn't been easy, but Traidcraft has been instrumental in making this happen.
Their ever-expanding team founded their sister charity (Traidcraft Exchange) in 1986, and they’ve since worked tirelessly to make sure that the UK Government rules against the worst extremes of corporate leading.
It was due to the determination of the Traidcraft campaigns team in 2013 that resulted in the government setting up an official Supermarket Watchdog, with the legal power to fine supermarkets who pressured their suppliers into unethical or harmful situations.
Over the past 35 years Traidcraft has pioneered the introduction of fair trade chocolate, coffee, tea, fruit juice, wine, rice, honey, charcoal, rubber… Even sustainably-grown fair trade palm oil! Believe it or not, but almost everything that we know today as being fair trade began with Traidcraft.
And there’s much, much more to come.
Today, Traidcraft is going back to its roots. They’re embracing all fair trade symbols equally, as they know that they’re all true to the fair trade movement. As large companies flippantly dip their toes in and out of fair trade depending on their latest strategy, Traidcraft is hunkering down, going direct, focusing on organic farming practices, using recycled materials in their handicrafts, being sustainable wherever possible, and paving the way for a bright future of even more life-changing, pioneering work.
Traidcraft are proving that once you’re committed to doing trade justly, there’s no going back.
They’re the original fair trade pioneers, and will alway be at the forefront of this movement.
Follow us on our journey.