Shareholder November Update
As we approach the main trading period of the year, I wanted to give you a brief update of our activities and progress. I promised to keep these emails short, so I cannot do justice to the enormous range of activities going on around the building, and there is much more that I would love to communicate, but for now, please see this as a “highlights” moment.
I am happy to report that at the end of October our sales were tracking to budget. This is pleasing on many levels – it is a boost to the team here that the plan we set out to achieve in January is being implemented almost to the penny.
Our costs have been kept below budget. Without too much interruption, we were able to replace our outdated warehouse and accountancy software over the summer. Typically, these projects tend to overrun and go over budget, but I am pleased to report that in this case, we had a timely and successful landing. A small project team managed the process from beginning to end, and they should be rightly applauded for a successful implementation. There were some initial issues surrounding invoicing that affected Fairtraders, but we have worked hard to get these resolved.
The result of all this – we enter the main trading period, the time when we really make any profit in the year, in a strong position, and our budgeted yearly profit of £135,000 looks eminently achievable.
As I mentioned above, the company traditionally has a significant peak in its activities right about now. Since the middle of September, our colleagues in the warehouse have been working six-day shifts – with support from temporary staff and staff from the office whenever possible.
September and October were both good months, and November has started in a similar fashion.
It may seem odd, therefore, that we are planning to boycott Black Friday. By boycott, we mean that on this day, we have decided to close the office and warehouse down and refuse to put any products on special offer. In fact, we are putting out the call to consumers that we all need to be consuming less, if we are even half-way serious about our responsibilities regarding climate change.
To help put this into context, I would like to share our thoughts about our future role as the UK’s leading and pioneering fair trade company. The following text is in our Christmas Catalogue and may be familiar to some of you, but if not, I hope that you understand the new impulses driving the company forward.
Articulating our Mission in Today’s Market:
Traidcraft was founded as a Christian response to poverty. We take this responsibility seriously and sincerely. Our responsibility today is to hear the voice of future generations and be the kind of business that they need. Millions of young people are waiting for a response. Most decision makers are not hearing. Many are not even listening. Few are acting. We are.
- Committed to telling the truth about climate change.
For some farming communities the effects of climate change are already catastrophic, and their livelihoods have been destroyed, or soon will be.
Representing thousands of independent scientists, the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which reports to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has spoken. They have said that it is possible to limit average global temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels (circa 1850) if we act now and with conviction. If we breach the 1.5C limit we begin to trigger ‘tipping points’ that will multiply the warming process beyond our ability to act.
We can still act. We need to stop denying the science. We need to stop pretending that this isn’t our problem.
- Part of the solution is that we need to consume less.
Each citizen in the UK “consumes” around 6.5 tonnes of carbon each year. A sustainable future would limit us to around 1 tonne each. A flight to the Mallorca and back “costs” about 0.5 tonnes of carbon. Eating meat “costs” about 200kg of carbon per person per year. Buying new clothes each year, on average, “costs” each one of us about 700kg of carbon. 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from farming. If we are serious about hearing future generations, we need to “spend” less and think about what we are eating.
As a business it is counter-intuitive to preach the need to consume less. But it is the right thing to do. We want to offer solutions; buying better, less carbon intensive food is important. So, buy recycled, local, organic, and fairly traded goods in that order.
We work with small farmer organisations who have pioneered circular farming techniques: putting carbon back in the ground through re-forestation and composting. It is possible to grow carbon neutral food, but it isn’t easy, and while you will need to pay more, it is far cheaper than the real “cost” of cheap, subsidised industrial food.
We see stewardship of the earth and its resources as a clear expression of our Christian faith.
- Part of the solution is how we manage ourselves.
We cannot expect to be a part of the solution if we use the same, tired systems that are largely responsible for the mess we find ourselves in. Gone are the days when privileged, white males should be allowed to decide a company’s (or even the country’s) future.
We are committed to self-organisation. Power is democratised to those who need to make decisions and we operate no hierarchy. We have reduced the range of salaries from 1:6 to 1: 2.4. We decide together how we wish to behave and what is important to us. There is no boss, there is no veto, there are only opportunities to grow and expand on our mission. “We” are part of the solution.
- Part of the solution is in breaking rules.
Traidcraft began by challenging the orthodoxy that you couldn’t be competitive if you paid a proper wage to farmers and artisans. We broke that rule.
The rules we need to break today are different; today’s rule says that we can consume voraciously and stupidly.
We reject and object to the mindless feeding frenzy that is Black Friday. That day we will be closing our warehouse and addressing our carbon footprint by gardening at our HQ and addressing social injustice by running a refreshment station at Newcastle Cathedral.
- Part of the solution… is being part of the solution.
It always takes a few people to start the process rolling. We may fail, but Traidcraft is serious about being a 1.5c company.
Back with Producers:
I am delighted to say that we are now beginning to re-engage more directly with our long-standing partners. This year, three members of staff will be travelling to visit producer organisations. This has always been at the heart of our work, and after a year where we could not invest to our satisfaction, we are back on track. If you want to read more, please sign up here to receive our monthly e-bulletin. It is packed with information and shows just what we are engaged in.
Your continued and faithful support of our work is always appreciated. Please help us spread the message that Traidcraft is trying to “get it right” by living up to its responsibilities as a business where transparency, dialogue and respect are fundamental to our mission.