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The future looks fair

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 February 2015

Myakka offers customers an affordable range of beautiful solid wood furniture, gorgeous soft furnishings, lighting and home accessories

Myakka offers customers an affordable range of beautiful solid wood furniture, gorgeous soft furnishings, lighting and home accessories

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With Fairtrade Fortnight just around the corner, ANDREA COWAN speaks to Somerset companies that have ethical trading at the heart of their business.

Anokhi was founded 40 years ago in IndiaAnokhi was founded 40 years ago in India

We are used to seeing the Fairtrade mark on food stuffs, a labelling system indicating that a range of specific international trading standards have been met.

But recent research by the Fairtrade Foundation discovered that whilst 78 per cent of the public recognises the logo, less than half actively choose those products.

In a bid to turn this round, Fairtrade Fortnight from 23 February to 8 March will focus on the impact of fair trading, with events, food fairs and tastings taking place nationally over the two-week period.

Meet some Somerset fair traders...

Anokhi, Wells.

Luke Hardy, business partner, what do you sell?

Anokhi was founded 40 years ago in India by Faith and John Singh (my sister and brother-in-law) and is still run by the family. It began originally as a means of reviving Rajasthan’s traditional techniques of hand block-printing whilst creating fashionable products for the Western market.

In the UK, Anokhi has its own shops, also stocking clothing and accessories from other suppliers.

How do you practice fair trade?

Anokhi in India is an example to all manufacturers around the world as to how fair trade should be conducted. It maintains an open and honest relationship with its craftspersons. It helps them to work in conditions of their own choosing and commits to providing them with sustained work and a livelihood. It is a template of fair trade.

We do our utmost to ensure that the same ethics are shared with our other suppliers.

Can you give some examples of other labels that you stock?

Sahara supports rain forest tribes by donating a portion of its profits. The Masai brand is owned by a Danish brother and sister who work almost exclusively with one family in India.

Cut Loose is an American company owned in part by a man originally from the South West of England. His company is run along co-operative lines and is highly ecologically friendly. Adini is quite a large manufacturer now but has managed to retain its commitment to fair trade and the protection of the environment.

We are attracted by unusual and beautiful things – Anokhi means unusual or unique in Hindi. These are usually made by unusual and caring people. Like attracts like, which extends right down to the customer who buys them from us.

Myakka, Wincanton.

Georgie Hopkins, founder and Director, what do you sell?

My husband Simon Whitehead and I started Myakka in 1999.

We offer customers an affordable range of beautiful solid wood furniture, gorgeous soft furnishings, lighting and home accessories.

The furniture is designed and manufactured exclusively for us with fresh, individual styles that are perfect for modern living. We are able to accommodate customer comments and demands resulting in a collection including interesting pieces such as side tables for awkward corners and space saving cupboards.

How do you trade fairly?

We follow the 10 principles of fair trade as set out by the World Fair Trade Organisation. Fundamentally, we trade with people as we’d like to be dealt with ourselves, looking for long-term relationships in which everyone benefits.

Our wood is sourced from properly run plantations, mainly in India, Indonesia and Thailand. We support Trees4Trees, which funds replanting schemes and best forestry practice in Indonesia. We also have links with SKSN, a school for physically challenged children in India.

Back in the UK, we have worked with Somerset Community Foundation since 2009 and have a dedicated Myakka Fund, which supports grassroots projects in South Somerset. We write a regular blog so that our customers can keep up to date with all our activities.

We are not a charity though – it’s an important distinction for us.

Our products are design-led, covetable pieces.

It’s actually a very simple trading model: we buy from our suppliers, they pass on a share of their profits, our customers buy from us, we pass on a share of our profits. It’s so simple and yet it makes such a difference, like ripples on a pond.

What recognition have you had for your trading practice?

Myakka has been recognised by BAFTS (British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers) since 2006 and has held the Ethical Award for corporate social responsibility since 2009.

We also recently received full marks from the Ethical Company Organisation in the Good Shopping Guide putting us right at the top of the list for ethical furniture.

Christina Oswin Jewellery, Frome.

Christina Oswin, founder and owner, what do you sell?

I am a designer-maker of silver and gold jewellery. I have a shop in Frome with a work bench on the shop floor so that customers can see the jewellery being made. Much of my work is commissioned, particularly engagement and wedding rings. I also run beginner jewellery classes.

How do you practice fair trading?

I love working with metal but am aware of the ethical and environmental impact of mining. I use recycled gold and silver as much as possible and ethically-sourced stones.

For specific designs I source from companies in the UK that are licenced to sell Fairtrade silver and gold.

Every design is registered with the Fairtrade Foundation and has a special hallmark. I love the idea that a piece of jewellery is traceable from the mine to the shelf.

Why is it so important?

The luxury of wearing jewellery should not cause suffering to people or damage to the environment. Around the world small-scale mining employs about 30 million miners. Certified Fairtrade miners can earn a premium of 15 per cent on top of their sale price when they recover and process gold without using harmful chemicals such as mercury and cyanide. And, importantly, child and forced labour is prohibited under Fairtrade standards. The jewellery might work out five to 10 per cent more expensive but it really is worth it.

Have you won any awards?

I won the Silver Award at 2014’s South West Fairtrade Business Awards. It was reassuring to see a number of other businesses taking part and it brings customer awareness to the products. Spreading the word is so important. I am involved in a new Fairtrade campaign launching on Valentine’s called I Do, which is to promote Fairtrade gold wedding rings.

Toucan Café, Minehead.

Sally Eveleigh, owner of Toucan Wholefoods and Toucan Café, what do you sell?

I opened Toucan Wholefoods in 1982. The ethos of the shop was to sell untampered-with, additive-free, good and wholesome food with a strong eye on living lightly on the planet. We’ve always sold organic vegetables and fruit and organic food in general.

In May 2010 we opened Toucan Café. It is a vegetarian cafe and we source our food as organically as possible. It’s a lovely atmospheric café with four different rooms, each with its own ambiance. We want it to be a big part of the local community and often hold music and special events there.

Are your products fair trade?

Fair and ethical trade is important to us and we put our trust in the relevant certified logos and buy from reputable suppliers. We source as responsibly as we are able and I expand this to include buying organic and local products.

Our coffee is a Fairtrade and organic Italian blend (which is delicious and we often receive great compliments for it). We have organic milk from Manor Farm and Yeo Valley.

We buy our salad leaves and flowers from a local grower when she has them. Our vegetables are sourced reasonably locally and delivered every day. Our supplier in Bristol brings us superb bread from Herberts Bakery. We know our free-range eggs farmer personally.

Have you won any awards?

We were awarded Best Independent Retailer in Britain for 2014 by the annual Natural & Organics Exhibition at ExCel, London. It’s the main event of the year for international organic and Fairtrade producers and suppliers so a great coup.

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