Producer of the month: Fair Squared
Let's talk about Fair Squared; we've just launched their lip balms on our website after being a very successful seller in the shop. We love them because they could well be one of the most ethical businesses out there. Their cosmetics and toiletries are Fairtrade (of course), organic, vegan and halal certified, environment and animal friendly! They've really got everything covered.
Fair Squared were inspired by the 2005 "Make Poverty History" campaign, and by 2010 Fair Squared products such as hand cream and lip balm were being sold in the UK through Oxfam and Amnesty International. By 2013 and following a move to Cologne, the product range had expanded from 12 to 80 items, sourcing 13 Fairtrade ingredients from across the world, including olive oil from Palestine, almond oil from Pakistan, shea butter from Burkina Faso and latex from India. They are fantastic products. Try the hand cream and body lotion samples in the shop if you haven't been tempted already.
The Fair Squared Lime Lip Balm, made with shea butter and almond oil, encapsulates the wide reach of Fair Squared's work in one small package, in this case across three continents. The limes in Fair Squared lip balm are grown in Casa Nueva, in northern Brazil. Many locals make the short cycle ride from the town to work on Amrit Mohanai's plantation, where his family grew limes and mangoes for twenty years. There's full-time work for 90 people caring for the 50,000 mango trees and 25,000 lime trees throughout the year.
Pitram fruit has been Fairtrade certified since 2008, and the workers have reaped the benefit of the Fair Trade premium through numerous projects such as housing, schooling, and dental care. Even seasonal workers brought in for the busiest harvest times benefit - every month, they receive a basket of basic foods. 'Compared to southern Brazil healthcare, our people up here in the north are really disadvantaged: healthcare here is a lot worse, schools aren't funded properly, nothing is as good as it should be, and we just want to do everything we can to improve the situation' says Amrit.
The almond oil in Fair Squared Almond Lip Balm is produced by the Fair Trade Mountain Fruit Company in the Hunza Valley amid the snow-capped peaks of northern Pakistan. The springtime sea of blossoms in white and pink will turn into apricots, apples, cherries, almonds and walnuts, for which the area has been famous for centuries. Since 2008 some of these have been grown under Fair Trade conditions. Fair Trade has financed student grants and playgrounds, books for community schools, and generators and irrigation projects. It has also brought wider cultural change around the role of women in this traditional Muslim community.
The two production centres for nuts and fruit in the Hunza Valley not only have a predominantly female workforce but are also managed by women. "Because of Fairtrade, it is now acceptable for women to work and to be in a management position," says Richard Friend, who has seen the project develop from the start. The Ismaili community is also known for its sponsorship of science, art and education for boys and girls, and education is essential for the company. It takes about eight months to deal with the annual harvest, leaving four months to run the classes in the factory. They teach the women to sew and other skills that will enable them to earn some extra income. Fair Trade has supported and empowered this isolated community that is hampered by the challenges from flooding threats and periodic political unrest. A producer executive of both men and women representing the 6000 workers decide how Fairtrade money will be spent so that it is a democratic decision that benefits everyone.
Most people in the Bolgatanga District of northern Ghana are subsistence farmers, typically growing maize, sorghum, millet and groundnuts, and keeping a cow, some sheep and chickens. Often the livestock is sold to purchase other essentials like cooking oil, soap and salt, forcing the families to adopt a purely grain-based diet. Malnutrition is common. Things changed in 2006 when Fair Squared's partner NGO founded a cooperative to harvest and process shea nuts, which you will find in the Fair Squared Shea butter Lip Balm. Shea trees grow everywhere in the forests of Ghana, and their nuts are collected by the 300 women from five villages that form the cooperative. The nuts are parboiled to remove the shells, then packed up and taken to the processing centre. Another 60 women process the nuts and turn out eight tonnes of shea butter per day. It's hard work, but it gives people an important source of additional income, which has changed their lives for the better.
The money the women in the cooperative make from the shea nuts has meant better food for everyone, and malnutrition is now rare. Children have more energy to walk to school and to learn. The Fairtrade premium helps to pay for school uniforms and health insurance to cover basic care. These women have ambitious plans: they would like to build a new school, a library to help eradicate illiteracy and an IT centre - but there isn't enough money… yet. Companies like Fair Squared are helping them achieve their dreams.