All the Fun of the Fair: Festival Showcases Burgeoning Ethical and Fair Trade Market

A free festival in the heart of Melbourne that showcases the burgeoning fair trade and ethical market in Australia is set to take place in two weeks time.

Started three years ago by a Melbourne banker, Moral Fairground at Federation Square (Fair@Square) has already become Australia’s largest fair trade and ethical festival.

More than 80 businesses and an estimated 75,000 people are expected to take part in the festival, which will include a VIP Ethical Fashion Show, a walk-through display of an eco-friendly house, cooking demonstrations at the Fair Indulgence tent, discussions about ethical and sustainable issues, live music and children’s activities.

Cutting-edge sustainable fashion, ethical beauty products, organic goods and culturally diverse giftware, accessories and jewellery from around the globe will all be on show.

Festival Director Susanna Bevilacqua, a banker, was shocked by the working conditions and environmental impact of mass consumerism she witnessed when she visited some of the poorest countries in South East Asia. Determined to do something, she launched the festival three years ago with the help of fellow banker Boby Vosinthavong.

Despite never having organised an event before, Bevilacqua sought corporate sponsorship and a venue, and set out to build awareness about ethical, socially responsible and environmentally aware businesses.

Fairtrade labelling contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to marginalised producers and workers, many in low-income regions. It aims to empower them by paying fair prices for their work, helping them to operate in the global economy, and challenging unfair trading practices.

A global survey conducted by GlobeScan for Fairtrade International shows that 93 per cent of Australians believe companies should pay farmers and workers fairly.

It also reveals that 81 per cent of us believe independent, third-party certification is the best way to verify a product’s ethical claims.

While Fairtrade labelled products were launched in Australia as recently as 2005, the industry was already worth $AUD120 million by last year, and sales increased 200 per cent from 2009 to 2010.

Bevilacqua said that Australians were increasingly prepared to spend money to ensure that the products they purchased were ethically produced.

While she would like to see an umbrella group set up here purely to promote fair trade, she points to the recent launch of Fair Traders of Australia, a new network of businesses committed to selling fair trade products, as a positive development.

She is also keen to see the full range of fair trade products become available in Australia.

‘The power lies with ... consumers, we need them to buy fair trade products so that the retailers can see there is demand’, she said.

‘We need consumers to let their retailers know that they want more fair trade products on the shelves.

‘[This] means approaching your local schools and sporting clubs [and] asking them to use fair trade footballs or asking major department stores to stock fair trade fashion.’

Moral Fairground Advisory Board member and senior associate at Net Balance, Cameron Neil, says the growth of Fair@Square over the last three years has been phenomenal and a clear reflection that consumer demand for products with purpose and meaning is here to stay.

‘Businesses are recognising this isn't a feel good fad. Some are leading the way, ensuring their products are produced in a fair and ethical way, and seeking to reduce the environmental impact of their production, use and disposal.

The Festival is at Federation Square in Melbourne on the weekend of December 3 and 4 from 11 am to 6 pm. The Ethical Fashion Show takes place on December 2 at BMW Edge from 7.30 pm to 9 pm. Find out more

Until next time!
If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might also like Kylie Kwong Partners with Oxfam to Bring Fairtrade Design to Your Table.

No comments :