Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

British shoppers lead world in fair trade

From Juliet Mann, CNN
updated 1:50 PM EDT, Thu March 22, 2012
  • The United Kingdom is the world's biggest market for fair trade produce
  • Sales of fair trade goods increased by 12% from 2010 to 2011
  • The growth in fair trade is significant in a struggling retail sector
  • Awareness of fair trade principles in the UK is almost double that of Europe

London (CNN) -- In an environment of declining retail sales in the United Kingdom, one premium brand is bucking the trend as consumers vote with their consciences.

Sales of ethically produced, fair trade products in the UK increased by 12% from 2010 to 2011, accounting for £1.3 billion ($2.07 billion).

While just 0.01% of food and drink sales worldwide are certified fair trade, in the United Kingdom, the world's biggest fair trade market, ethically sourced produce is big business.

Supermarket shelves teem with fair trade products from all corners of the globe, as the British consume 9.7 million cups of fair trade tea, 6.4 millions cups fair trade coffee and 3.2 million fair trade bananas every day.

Fair trade involves retailers paying a premium to suppliers in developing countries.

"It's about investment to be fair to everyone in the supply chain," says Brad Hill, fair trade director for The Co-operative, whose supermarket wing has recently moved to stock exclusively fair trade bananas.

Through fair trade, we have been able to develop our community
Demetrio Gonzales, banana grower, Panama

While consumers in the United Kingdom pay a marginal premium, if any, for ethically sourced produce, the practice can make a real difference at the source of production. Demetrio Gonzales, a banana grower from Panama, says his community was barely covering the costs of production before the introduction of fair trade.

"Through fair trade, we have been able to develop our community with investments in our water supply, and ways to improve our living conditions," he said.

British consumers' rush to embrace fair trade products seems tied to widespread public awareness of fair trade principles. According to Hill, 96% of British consumers were aware of fair trade, compared to just 47% in other parts of Europe. "There is potential for Europe to catch up with the UK in fair trade," he said. "It's all about increasing awareness."

And, to a growing extent, popular consumer brands are taking the lead themselves. Popular chocolate goods such as Cadbury's Dairy Milk, Maltesers and Kit Kat are now fair trade, while ice cream producers Ben and Jerry's will switch to exclusively fair trade ingredients this year.

Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Europe
updated 11:31 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
Marketplace Europe visits Latvia to see how the Baltic country has made its transition to the Euro from the Lat.
updated 11:30 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
updated 11:40 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
updated 11:41 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
updated 4:23 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
updated 4:14 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
updated 1:15 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
Estonia is setting the pace for other European nations with a thriving economy and its tech industry, according to the Baltic nation's leader.
updated 2:03 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
updated 4:25 AM EST, Fri November 29, 2013
Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
updated 6:16 AM EST, Mon November 11, 2013
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
updated 7:00 AM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
updated 1:41 PM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
updated 12:17 PM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.