Fairtrade Fortnight: more than just bananas

Friday 04-03-2016 - 10:00

This is a guest blog by Glenn Cummings, CEO of Alive and Kicking, a social enterprise that manufactures sports balls in Kenya, Zambia and Ghana.

It’s Fairtrade Fortnight, a time to celebrate the principles that guarantee fair wages and good conditions for producers in the developing world. This naturally brings to mind small-scale food producers who deserve a decent price for their wares, whether it’s Kenyan tea, Ghanaian cocoa, or Colombian bananas.

But these principles can also inform our buying habits more broadly. We need to make sure that the growing trend of ethical purchasing works to benefit the increasing number of urban workers, as well as rural farmers.

Students’ unions can play a huge part in realising this ambition. The buying power of students and their unions can have a transformative effect on communities in the developing world - as proven by NUS’ clothing company Epona, who use Fairtrade cotton and support a farmers’ cooperative.

The student movement has had some incredible wins over the years. From LGBT rights to the struggle against apartheid, students have been ahead of the curve and paved the way for substantial change. By embracing the principles of Fairtrade, students’ unions can continue this proud tradition.

While your food and cotton products can carry the Fairtrade logo, your ethical purchasing choices don’t end there. Any product you can think of has a supply chain, and how that supply chain works matters.

For example, I bet you rarely think about where your sports balls are made. But at Alive and Kicking, we use that very process to sustain the livelihoods of 150 people in Kenya, Zambia and Ghana. On average, our employees support six family members with their wage, meaning that this has a huge impact across their communities.

We support local producers, and employ those who struggle for opportunities elsewhere – women, young adults, and disabled people. We use our business practices to support our charitable objectives: donating thousands of balls to youth groups that can’t afford them, and using sport as a tool in the fight against HIV and malaria.

Our balls are made to official size and weight – they have even been used by Prince Harry, Paul Gascoigne and the Ethiopian national team! – and can be specifically branded, which could be perfect for your campus teams or varsity games. (And great news for our printing staff too, who screen-print each ball by hand.)

So Fairtrade Fortnight is the perfect time to recognise the potential that ethical purchasing policies can have. Make your food and drink Fairtrade; make your clothing Epona; make your sports balls Alive and Kicking.

To find out more about Alive and Kicking and how you could work with them, contact



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