During our Ethical Festive Market held on the 26th of November 2022, we held a panel discussion in the Temple of Peace on the theme of Solidarity, asking “Can we really make a difference?”
Choosing what to buy and how to spend our money in a way that makes a positive impact on our local and global community, can often feel challenging.
From feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the multiple issues we see today, to being concerned about our own personal finances – deciding how to act in both our own, and the wider world’s best interests – isn’t as straightforward as we would like it to be.
We asked an audience member Kirsty Luff, a working mum from Caerphilly to write about her experience of the event:
“Like most of us, buying presents for loved ones is foremost in my mind in the chaotic and colourful run up to Christmas.
Of course, I could lounge on the sofa, sipping my coffee in one hand and buying all my presents on my phone on the other! All it takes is a few clicks, and everything can be done and dusted in an hour or so. Of course, that’s tempting, being a busy working mum.
Instead, I want the money we spend as a family to make a positive difference and not just swell the gargantuan profits of global corporations. I am familiar with the fair-trade movement, and I choose to buy fair trade coffee and chocolate from the supermarket, when I can.
I just needed some motivation – and some guidance – to steer me in the right direction and stop me taking the easy way out. That’s why I dragged my long-suffering husband and twelve-year-old daughter to a panel discussion on a cold, rainy November day in Cardiff, organised by Hub Cymru Africa.
And it was the right decision. Because there is nothing like hearing first hand from people whose businesses and projects are having such a positive impact to make you want to do the right thing!
Like Donna Ali from BE Xcellence and the BOMB, who works so hard to support Black, Asian and minority ethic people succeed in business and be represented in positions of power. Or Martha Musanonza Holman, whose ‘Love Zimbabwe’ business helps people who make African arts and crafts start their own businesses and get a fair price for their products.
I was particularly interested to learn about the BAFTS Fair Trade Network UK from its chair Lenshina Hines, who is also co-owner of a business called Fair and Fabulous. I hadn’t heard of BAFTS before, but it’s vital in promoting fair trade in the UK, by working with UK-based independent shops and suppliers who partner with disadvantaged producers.
Wendy Kirkman’s story drums home just how life-changing the benefits can be to a local community. She is a co-founder of Giakonda Solar Schools, a charity that installs solar panels in Zaimbian schools. This project is transforming children’s lives, ensuring they don’t miss out on the massive educational opportunities afforded by the Internet.
But what can we do here in the UK?
One simple thing we can all do is switch bank accounts. Alex Bird spoke about the importance of using banks that don’t invest in fossil fuels and instead take an ethical approach to investment, like the Cooperative Bank or Triodos. He is launching Banc Cambria, an ethical bank that will be owned and controlled by its membership with support from the Welsh Government.
Ophelia Dos Santos, a textiles designer campaigning for sustainable fashion, chaired the discussion adroitly through sensitive and well-judged questioning. This helped draw out the experiences of the panelists, teasing out the issues so we could explore together what it all means for consumers living in the UK.
Of course, during this cost-of-living crisis, it is hard to justify the higher costs of fair trade and sustainable goods, but, as Ophelia points out, you can save money by buying less overall and keeping what you own for as long as possible. You can even get it repaired if it breaks.
Buying second hand is a good way of saving money that’s better for the environment. This frees up money for buying higher quality goods that last for longer and are produced in a way that doesn’t hurt people, increase global inequality, and worsen climate change, but instead has a positive impact on the world.
For me, this panel discussion helped to turn fair trade from being an abstract concept into something more real, tangible, and imaginable – and therefore harder to ignore! It was an insight into a world, and it made me want to feel part of it. We came away feeling inspired to seek out fair trade and sustainable options more and to find out more about how a product is produced, and who produces it, before we buy it.
Count me in!”
Buy Fairtrade to ensure farmers are paid a fair price, there is work on crop resilience and a transparent process.
Helping a small organisation can make a huge difference and what can be seen as a small amount of money can go very far.
Martha asked us to consider the story behind the products we consume every day and ask questions about where they come from and who made them. She reminded us there is no banana plantation in Swansea!
Shop around for banks, ask questions like ‘where do you invest your money?’, ask current pension providers more about their ethical credentials. Look at Triodos a Dutch Bank that is sustainable.
A discussion followed around barriers including use of language and access to funding and application forms. Donna advised applying in the right context – use key words “what is your solution” look at government reports and pick out the key words.