This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight (24th February - 9th March) theme is ‘Stick with Foncho’. It’s all about abolishing the unfair banana, so-named because years of supermarket price wars have reduced the farm-gate price of bananas down to a pittance. Of course Fairtrade Fortnight isn’t just about bananas, but about raising awareness and understanding of fair trade the world over. (I realised just how much this was needed after chatting with a new ethical label the other day – more on that later.
Any way, in honour of the fortnight, we are taking the opportunity to highlight our ground-breaking Organic Makeup range. Launched in 2011, the line has expanded to include a full range of shadows, liners, mascaras and lipsticks; everything you need to look naturally beautiful. We were the very first UK company to create makeup certified to both Organic and Fairtrade standards.
One of the most common questions we are asked is WHY we chose to do this – there is after all considerable extra work involved and what it takes to make Fairtrade certified makeup.
We (and most specifically Margaret / Mum) have always taken a huge interest in the provenance of our ingredients. Margaret works closely with our suppliers on each new batch of oils, butters and extracts we buy, ensuring the therapeutic properties are as good as they can be. For that reason we came to know a lot about our growers and understand their needs, including those in the developing world.
Trading ethically is thus very important to us. As is third party verification of that ethical status: Just as organic had become a bit of an overused - and often unsubstantiated – way of marketing skin care, the same was starting to happen with fair trade (note that the word Fairtrade written as one with a capital F is supposed to be restricted to products carrying the Fairtrade mark).
So we were really happy when the Fairtrade Foundation introduced certification for cosmetics and we were proud to become the first UK company to launch skin care certified to both organic and Fairtrade standards (our Mint Mask launched in 2009) and even more so when our mineral lipsticks and eye liners also became the first ever UK makeup products to carry the Fairtrade mark.
In terms of what we the FAIRTRADE Mark actually means: All ingredients that can be certified Fairtrade, must be sourced from Fairtrade farmers and producers under Fairtrade terms. The actual mandatory minimum Fairtrade content is quite low – 2% in wash products like shampoo and 5% in ‘leave on’ products. That’s really a reflection of how few suitable cosmetic ingredients are available as fair trade – bananas and coffee aren’t that well suited to most skin care formulations! (The most common cosmetic ingredients and the ones we use are shea butter, cocoa butter, sugar and coconut oil.)
Back to the conversation I had the other day with a new ethical certification scheme (that will remain nameless). “Join us” they said, “you’ve got organic certification that means your ingredients are grown cleanly, Fairtrade which means you don’t use child labour… but our label means so much more.” Okay STOP, stop right there. Fairtrade IS about so MUCH more than stopping child labour. It of course means fair conditions for workers (and no little ones involved), but the central tenet of Fairtrade is about making sure farmers receive a fair and stable price for what they grow, one that is usually far above the world market price. (Clearly there is a need to increase understanding about Fairtrade if someone working for an ethical certification scheme doesn’t get what Fairtrade is!)
We actually have to do much more than pay Fairtrade prices, use Fairtrade ingredients, and approve the formulations and packaging designs with the Fairtrade Foundation. Another purpose of being a Fairtrade licensee is to add value and provide other benefits for Fairtrade farmers. For us this has been helping with market information and research, as well as promoting awareness of the farmers, cooperatives and producer groups.
This added requirement really appealed to me following my own first hand encounter with how Fairtrade helps farmers began on holiday in 2005. I visited a coffee plantation in Panama that supplied Starbucks with Fairtrade and organic coffee. Now they could have wheeled out the happy, healthy looking workers especially for the tour, but I didn’t get that feeling. There was a stark contrast with other farms I hiked past where the workers clearly looked undernourished, not to mention probably sick from the noxious pesticides emanating from the spray guns in their backpacks.
The whole set up matched our brand ideals fully. Beauty is about far more to us then just pretty packaging (although we love that too). It has to be beautiful for you, the planet and those that help its creation – anything else is less then pretty in our eyes.
Another perception is that a beauty product made to ethical standards cannot match the look or payoff of the big commercial brands. We love make up, and so do many of the people who have tried it – one blogger (We Were Raised By Wolves) likened our Praline Lipstick to MAC, which is more than high praise anyone who loves cosmetics as much we do!
Fancy trying to incorporate Fairtrade make up in your collection? For the whole of Fairtrade fortnight we are offering 30 % off the whole make up line! There has never been a better time to try it out. VIEW THE LINE HERE
Want to learn more about Fairtrade Fortnight and how you can get involved? Visit the Fairtrade website here.