Belgium well on the way to becoming Fair Trade Country
Fair trade is on the way up. Last year, Belgians spent 14.30 euros on average on fair trade products: a nice improvement four years in a row. At the political level as well, fair trade and the ‘Make Belgium a Fair Trade Country by 2020’ receive a boost. This morning, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo kicked off the sixteenth Fair Trade Week in Aalst with a visit to JBC, which promotes fairer clothing.
Fair trade has been on the rise for several years. In 2016, Belgians bought fair trade products worth 14.30 euros on average, as opposed to 8.60 euros in 2013, 10.34 euros in 2014 and 12.15 euros in 2015. Thus, the aim for Belgians to buy fair trade products worth 15 euros on average in 2020 has almost been fulfilled.
As such, just like two years ago Belgium is near the European average, together with our neighbours, France (14.20 euros) and the Netherlands (15.10). The United Kingdom (27 euros) and especially Switzerland (65 euros) are way ahead. The Southern European countries are at the bottom of the list.
A political commitment
Political support is also needed in order to become a Fair Trade Country. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo launched the Belgian SDG Charter, which unites companies and organisations that subscribe to the Sustainable Development Goals and wish to contribute to their realisation. In less than a year, more than seventy companies subscribed.
In July, the Federal Parliament adopted a resolution to promote fair trade and support the ‘Make Belgium a Fair Trade Country’ campaign. More and more local authorities commit as well: today, 36% of Belgian municipalities have obtained the Fair Trade Municipality title, as opposed to 32% last year.
Discover fair trade near you, from 4th to 14th October
For years, Belgians’ familiarity with fair trade has been high: between 85% and 92% over the period from 2012 to 2016. Still, almost three Belgians out of ten cannot name a single fair trade product spontaneously. Precisely because of this, the Fair Trade Week brings fair trade to the people, through a wide range of activities throughout the country. Discovering fair trade products during a fair trade dinner in one of the 23 participating restaurants in Leuven, discussing fair trade during one of the debates or discovering how to integrate fair trade in your company at an action learning day with Antwerp corporate executives, connecting theory and practice… There is something for everyone: a full overview is online at www.weekvandefairtrade.be (http://www.weekvandefairtrade.be/) .
“The Fair Trade Week’s aim is to publicise the importance of fair trade products with as wide an audience as possible,” Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo explains. “As a consumer, you can more and more often opt for fairer products yourself. This way, you have a direct impact and contribute to open and fair trade. This is a win-win situation: consumers are satisfied, companies can grow and trade becomes ever more open and fair.”
Minister De Croo kicks off Fair Trade Week in a JBC store that brings attention to fairer textiles
Fair Trade Week is no longer just about the classics, such as coffee, bananas or chocolate. Other sectors, too, such as for example the textiles sector, focus more and more on fairer products. Minister De Croo thinks the application of fair trade principles to the textiles value chain is a good thing. “Big brands, too, venture into fair trade, for example by ensuring a more transparent supply chain. Since Fedustria, the textiles federation, has also signed up to the Belgian SDG Charter, this commitment will only grow stronger over the next years.”
In order to emphasise this, the Minister visited a JBC store this morning. As a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, JBC commits to making its clothing as fair as possible. This morning, JBC presented its I AM Transparency tool. This allows consumers to verify in which factory each article in the I AM collection was made. Other places pay attention to fairer clothing during Fair Trade Week too. On 8^th October, the City of Mechelen hosts the M-Fair, a day dedicated to fairer clothing with fashion shows, a market and workshops. On the other hand, the Fair Trade City of Ghent launches a city walk visiting Ghent fashion designers and stores committed to fair trade.