Fairtrade, Lent and Sister Act

Author: Sarah Wells

Picture: Gosia Malochleb, Flickr

Fairtrade, Lent and Sister Act

Fairtrade Fortnight, taking place in Lent this year, is the perfect time to consider how our spending affects people around the world-especially the poorest, says Sarah Wells.

“Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” -Anna Lappé

Lent is a time to deepen our relationship with God, with others, and the world around us. So it is fitting that Fairtrade Fortnight falls during Lent.

Not only can we give up things we enjoy and draw closer to God, but we can also consider where these things come from, and how the things we buy, eat and drink affect our brothers and sisters around the world.

Many are familiar with the Fairtrade policy of ensuring farmers receive a fair wage. However, I love that this label also gives farmers money to invest in social, environmental or economic development projects in their communities.

Fairtrade standards are environmentally friendly, and ensure both farmers and their workers have decent working conditions. What’s not to love?

Restoring Dignity

Sadly, there remain many people at the bottom of the supply chain who get exploited. It is shocking that millions of poor farmers who produce food we love still do not earn enough to live and support their families. Many banana plantation workers, for example, earn less than £1 a day.

We need to keep choosing Fairtrade, because it helps restore dignity, closes the door on exploitation, and enables millions of lives to be transformed.

                                                                                                               Photo: CAFOD

CAFOD founded the Fairtrade Foundation in 1992 along with other aid agencies. CAFOD is leading calls for the Government to ensure, in post-Brexit decisions, that trade agreements do not disregard the world’s poorest people.

In October 2017, CAFOD campaigners supported the ‘Don't Ditch Fairtrade’ campaign. CAFOD asked Sainsbury's to rethink dropping Fairtrade tea for their own 'Fairly Traded' scheme, which removes farmers’ power to decide where to invest the Fairtrade premium.

I love this ‘Sister Act’ photo of a group of nuns heading to Sainsbury’s headquarters with plane tickets and passports, asking the company to ‘get back on board’ with Fairtrade:

                                                                                                                 Photo: CAFOD

Making A Real Difference

Pope John Paul II talked about how we are “indirect employers”: it is not enough to view unfair trade as somebody else’s problem, or solely the responsibility of large corporations. We have “true responsibility” because of our influence as consumers. (Laborem Exercens, 17) We can choose to be part of the solution.

Each time we buy food and drink, we can choose fairness and justice, giving power to the poorest and most vulnerable. As Pope Francis says: “Everything is connected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.” (Laudato Si’, 240)

Whether it is our morning brew, commuter coffee or chocolate we are sharing around the office, our choices make a real difference.

Use Your Voice and Your Choice

More great news: as well as popular Fairtrade products (tea, coffee, bananas), you can also buy Fairtrade rice, pineapples, ice-cream, fruit juice, biscuits, dried fruit, cereals, honey-even wine, flowers and clothes.

Look for the Fairtrade mark. If shops do not stock Fairtrade, ask them to do so - use your voice as well as your choice.

Let us pray for the day when our international trade system, based on justice, allows people to live and work in dignity. The Fairtrade distinction will not even be needed.

Until then, let us celebrate the good that is happening, and keep working and praying for a better, fairer world this Lent and beyond.

·        Fairtrade Fortnight takes place between Monday 26 February and Sunday 11 March 2018.

·        To discover how your parish can become a Fairtrade parish, or for Fairtrade resources and guidance in asking Sainsbury’s not to drop Fairtrade, visit:

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