CONVERSATIONS WITH MOLLY HARRISS OLSON FROM FAIRTRADE AUSTRALIA NEW ZEALAND PART II

In the second part of this series, we chat with Olson, the CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand about her job as she helps us to navigate through the world of Fairtrade.

How does Fairtrade manage to ensure that brands comply with the requirements?

Fairtrade works across the entire supply chain, from farmers through to manufacturers and brands, to ensure that everyone meets Fairtrade Standards. The first thing is to make sure everyone understand what the Standards require and why they exist. We do this in a number of ways, for instance in some communities with low literacy levels we have a range of games and visual tools to bring the Fairtrade Standards to life!

The second part of the process is that every Fairtrade certified operator is regularly audited by a third party independent auditor known as FLOCERT. 

Could you explain to us the difference between Fairtrade and Fair Trade?

Products that are Fairtrade certified and bear the Fairtrade Mark (see right) are sourced and created in compliance with the Fairtrade Standards. Seeing the Fairtrade Mark on a products means you can trust it has been made ethically and sustainably.

However not all items can be Fairtrade certified, for instance silk scarves and other handicrafts. A brand that works with women’s handicraft groups may call their products fair trade as they have a direct relationship with the women and the community.

I always say to people, if you are unsure about the way any brand labels their products or the claims they make, don’t be afraid to ask them questions!

Molly Harriss Olson, Fairtrade Australia New Zealand

How would you explain the importance of Fairtrade to someone who isn’t into Fairtrade products?

For me, Fairtrade is about treating people with dignity, helping make sure they can reach their potential and take control of their future, all while ensuring we look after the environment. So when I speak to someone about Fairtrade I ask them what impact they want to have on the world around them. Too often people underestimate the power they have, the coffee you drink, the clothes you wear all of these things can have a positive impact. Remember that how you spend your money and the choice you make count.  You can choose to be part of the solution.

What does sustainability and fair trade mean to you?

Sustainability is about ensuring each generation has the opportunity to have a healthy, vibrant and rich life on our beautiful planet. What Fairtrade does is tackle some of the biggest challenges to help communities become more sustainable.

Personally, I am conscious of ethical and sustainable considerations all the time, and I strive to make ethical choices on a daily basis. A big part of this has to do with the products I buy, because I know my dollar is going back into communities where it can make a difference. From choosing fairly traded bed linen sustainable food and Fairtrade chocolate, I make sure that the products I buy were produced by people who receive a fair wage in fair working conditions.

We can all enact change in our lives that allow us to be more sensitive to the planet, while enabling people to participate in the benefits of fair trade. The Fairtrade system is a profound part of the solution of any sustainable future.

What’s the best part of your day?

The best part of my day is working with people and seeing them realise and understand what we do. You can see that moment where the penny drops and people suddenly connect to all the ideas we’re trying to promote. That’s a great moment. This can happen at all levels from ministers to total strangers, but seeing that people have connected with the producers and the system and that you’re making a difference is fantastic. Fairtrade provides an opportunity for that, no matter what you’re doing.

What are some of the more interesting Fairtrade products that you’ve worked with?

Everyone thinks of Fairtrade as tea, coffee and chocolate but of course it’s so much more than that. In Australia, we have Fairtrade certified spices like cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, and we also work with products like gold, vanilla and cotton.

Personally, I really connect with cotton and this is a commodity that I see has such potential. Cotton is such an important commodity regionally and every day we are surrounded by cotton products; from the clothes you wear during the day, to the bed sheets you curl up under at night. Around the world, consumers are pushing for ethically made fabrics and products made from certified cotton. It’s really exciting to see more businesses offering these products.

To read about Olson’s journey in Fairtrade in the first part of the series, click here. Visit http://fairtrade.com.au/ to find out more about Fairtrade.

Our first release of the collection is now available. Click on the store navigation to view our products.


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