Lima Fair Trade Summit – it will be historic

By Erinch Sahan

The Fair Trade movement is gathering in Lima, Peru. From Monday (16 Sep), we will celebrate the 30th birthday of the WFTO, forge new partnerships and explore solutions to global challenges.

Our global economy needs an overhaul. The climate crisis is real, and it’s big. Plastics are piling up, forests are burning, refugees are fleeing conflicts, millions remain trapped in poverty while inequality spirals out of control. At Lima, we will step into action and we won’t be alone. WFTO community will be joined by the broader Fair Trade movement as well as sister movements and experts on climate, refugees, living wage, social finance, online markets and many more.

Rice & Carry Bags collect wastes and recycled them to make trendy bags. They make sure production is done in the community to create livelihoods for local artisans. (Photo: Rice & Carry Bags)

We, WFTO, are the innovative enterprises benefiting nearly 1 million livelihoods across 76 countries. Our membership goes beyond individual social enterprises though, and includes organisations and networks that support Fair Trade and social enterprise. On the one hand, we are activists and campaigners, boldly confronting the tough issues and calling out injustices. On the other hand, we are social entrepreneurs, driving pragmatic solutions through markets. This joint identity is what makes a WFTO summit special. On critical issues, we can go deeper.

As entrepreneurs and activists we will ask the big questions about the future of Fair Trade and transforming our global economy. This means we will dive into topics like:

• Product designs that save the planet
• Fair Trade and social enterprise taking over the entire chocolate supply chain
• Refugees as artisans
• Radical ideas for improving farmer incomes
• New ethical consumers 
• Mobilising cooperation among coops and Fair Trade Enterprises
• Elevating the social solidarity economy
• Building a circular economy

The 29 sessions range from living wage to the cool farm tool; public procurement to social media; organic to impact investing and beyond. The 300+ participants will sniff out new collaborations while challenging each other to step-up commercially to transform our global economy. It’s a gathering of a rare breed of leaders who have built businesses obsessed with benefiting people and planet. They share a vision and deep-rooted values. This means they establish trust quickly and get to work on new big ideas like rapid growth of upcycling, reshaping agriculture and deepening connections with consumers.

At Lima, we will also celebrate beautiful Fair Trade products. The winners of the design awards will be announced (stage 1 went viral on Facebook some weeks ago). Meanwhile enterprises and artisans will showcase their bags and baskets, their tea and garments. They will meet buyers and create new commercial relationships. And Fair Trade coffee and chocolate will be sampled and compared.

Speakers range from social entrepreneurs and Fair Trade leaders, to activists, academics and senior UN and government officials. Many sessions have been organised by partners, including from the social solidarity economy movement, ILO, coop movement and UNHCR. Others are led by WFTO members such as GEPA, Shared Interest, Shared Earth, Zotter, Allpa and Maggie’s Organics. Other leaders from the new economy, like AvocadoStore and Transform Finance will bring new perspectives on online markets and social finance.

On Thursday (19 Sep) is the General Meeting of the WFTO, where we look at how the Fair Trade principles can be updated to do even more on climate and saving our planet (watch this space!). A new president and new board members will also be elected, as we say goodbye to giants like our president Rudi Dalvai, and replace board members Bob Chase, Geoff White, Roopa Mehta and Johny Joseph.

At Lima, we will celebrate and challenge, collaborate and learn, and renew ourselves. We’re a truly global movement that is both ambitious and pragmatic. But always grounded, always focused and always authentic. That’s Fair Trade and for 30 years, that’s been the WFTO community.

*Follow developments through #FairTradeSummit on social media (we’ll livestream plenaries on Facebook).