We've been delighted with the response to our new range of Dalit candles from India. We trialled these over the Hay Festival and they proved to be a great success. From the largest centrepiece to the smallest ceramic tea light (which start at just £2 instore and four for £10 online), each is hand made and represents hope for the Dalit community in India.
Dalit Goods, who import the candles, is the trading arm of Life Association, a registered charity who for 20 years have been building and managing schools and children's homes in India. Every purchase of Dalit Goods products goes towards supporting their work. They are committed to the highest standards of ethical and environmental responsibility in every area of Dalit Goods and combine western design with eastern skill to achieve this.
As a fair trade retailer, it's something we are constantly aware of, and it can be an ongoing battle to get our message across through the static. For clarity, we use the World Fair Trade Organisation's ten principles to guide our buying decisions and help us to choose what to stock in the shop. So far, we think we've got it broadly right, though we have never shied away from adding products like books and magazines which we feel complement the "pure" fair trade products we sell.
Ultimately the Fairtrade Foundation, who issue the recognisable "Fairtrade" logo, do not have a monopoly on the concept of "fair trade." At the same time, for Sainsbury's (and Tesco) to be withdrawing from a scheme that is so well respected is disappointing. For the majority of products we stock, which are artisan produced items, we would never have been able to use the Fairtrade logo anyway, so it's a moot point. For the products which DO qualify for the logo - coffee, chocolate, etc - we would always prefer to stick with Fairtrade products rather than water down our selection to include Rainforest Alliance or other brands, no matter how laudable they might be. Part of it has to be about a message, and recognisable symbols can be a good tool to do that.
What does it all mean for the consumer? Well, confusion for a start. If you shop in Sainsbury's or Tesco you'll now have to do your own research on their replacement system to see if it matches up to Fairtrade in your eyes. For us, transparency has always been the key - and we hope by telling you more about the amazing people who produce the beautiful products we sell, we can continue to persuade you that it is worth supporting them.