Blog Archives: Business

Excitement for Sunday? #TEDxAKL of course!

Boy, am I excited for Sunday. TEDxAKL is brought to us courtesy of Richard Hollinghum. It will be an amazing day filled with ideas from motivated and engaging speakers. Of course, as with every TED talk, there is so much more than just the talk going on; people who attend TED events are change-makers, so get your networking on.

If you haven’t already heard of TED, I urge you to check it out at http://www.ted.com/ and you must watch this talk by Hans Rosling (my favourite speaker ever) on how to think about poverty. If you are not entertained and informed, I’m at a loss for words :P

Check out the TEDxAKL line up here. All amazing speakers and of course they will be blowing us away with ideas we might not have heard about, should know more about, and should be supporting.

So, why am I excited? Well, I am speaking too. I get three minute with which to strut my stuff, and get my idea across. It is a simple idea, but one which is an integral one for the future of our world, our earth and for billions of people worldwide.

Here is the preview: “Problems faced by our world today, by all of us, are gradually approaching D-Day. We need to act on all the issues that will impact us and our earth. But how can we act, if we aren’t educated and we don’t think about the issues? Justin’s idea – think about the issues, act on the problems, choose to make a difference. He tells us the story of the Tabaka Tribe in Kenya and how Fair Trade has given them real opportunities and made a difference. Think about the issues facing us today – poverty affects billions, environmental change affects us all. Take action – talk about the issues, make the changes in your life. Choose to make a difference. Without you, we have no chance.”

Hope to see you there. For tickets visit http://bit.ly/civwqt.

If you can’t make it in person, there is always the opportunity to check out the livestream visit http://www.tedxauckland.co.nz/. I will be on at 11.30am. See you all there.

Fair trade and Facebook

I did the following guest blog post for the Fair Trade Futures conference – the largest fair trade event in North America. Find out more about them here.

What is the goal for fair trade?

My thoughts: Fair trade wants to make ethical consumption an everyday, every-purchase occurrence. I relish the day when fair trade is no longer needed.

Through good news, bad news, or a friend - you have heard about fair trade, right? That is what gave you the passion to support it. So that is how we get more people to support it. We have to tell them about it, and talk to them about it.

Social networks play a huge role in this goal, because they connect the people in the movement. Remember, people are vital; fair trade needs the support of everyone for it to work.

How can you use Facebook and Twitter?
  1. Talk about fair trade with your friends on Facebook - send them links to your favorite articles, videos and stories.
  2. Educate yourself about fair trade - read blogs, articles, watch videos and talk to people.
  3. Buy fair trade, when you go shopping, when you are online.

Tell your friends, tell your family, tell a stranger - the more the merrier. Use your social networks.

By doing so you can make a difference to the billions of people in poverty.

About the author: Justin is co-founder and CEO of Vital Link Group, a company giving you the power to support fair trade on your social networks. To find out more about Vital Link, follow @vitallinkgroup and @justinvitallink or become a fan on Facebook.

People are the key

I did the following guest blog post for the Fair Trade Futures conference – the largest fair trade event in North America. Find out more about them here.

How did fair trade become a global name, brand and label?

It didn’t just jump out one day into our vocabulary. No. It started because of a movement, a movement that a group of people saw a need for, and decided to lead.

People, worldwide, were being exploited because they had no options; they were paid very little and treated poorly. All because they were living in poverty - in suffering - already. I mean, how could it be any worse for them?

But, we found out. We didn’t like it. We decided to stop it. And a movement was born.

Today, fair trade stands for ethics: a belief that products should be produced and manufactured fairly and ethically. This belief is what empowers the fair trade movement. This belief is the passion that drives millions of peoples’ choices every day.

This is your belief, your passion. You make the choices, you have the money.

On behalf of the billions of people worldwide living in poverty, thank you.

Thanks for being part of a tribe of people that believe in ethics and fairness. Thanks for caring.

People are the key, people with passion – people like you.

About the author: Justin is co-founder and CEO of Vital Link Group, a company giving people the power to choose and be recognised for it. To find out more about Vital Link, follow @vitallinkgroup and @justinvitallink or become a fan on Facebook.

40 years to repeat your mistakes

I made an observation recently.

You may or may not know that there have been four major economic recessions in the last 120 years.

1890 - Panic of 1890
1930 - Great Depression
1970 - Little Depression
2010 - Credit Crisis

Now, I wonder if you noticed the gap between each of them.  40 years.

Why do you think that is?

I think that may be due to the generation gap – rather two-generation gap. I think history has a way of repeating itself, not because that is the way of things, but because people eventually forget what happened in the past – they make the same mistakes. I hypothesise that the 40 year gap, is the time period that is takes for people to forget – and make the same mistakes.

This may be because the leaders in power at the time of each recession are the grand-kids of the leaders from the last recession. How many people actually remember what happened when their grand-parents were in around? How many know and listened to the stories that our grand parents can tell us? I don’t think enough of us.

Lesson: Listen and learn from your grand parents.

Do you think that this is a reasonable conclusion? Do you think I’m talking bollocks? Let me know, I would really like to discuss it.

Fair trade is more

I did the following guest blog post for the Fair Trade Futures conference – the largest fair trade event in North America. Find out more about them here.

Fair trade is losing its power as a brand and a label. Why is that?

Fair trade has become so strong in the western world, particularly when we think about coffee, that cafés that do not use fair trade beans, are losing business. This means they need to do one of two things: (1) buy fair trade beans and become a fair trade organisation, or (2) create their own ethical label and grab some customers back. Many are taking option (2) because it is cheaper and more personal to the customer.

A friend of mine owns his own café, and does just that. He can tell me how much he paid for the coffee, who produced it, the working conditions and progress in the community. Find out more by looking at the comments here. This adds a lot of value to the customer, which (at this stage) fair trade cannot.

This is not a BAD thing! Why? Because the producer is better off (and wins when the café wins), the customer feels closer to their coffee (they know more than the fair trade system could ever tell them), and ethical consumption is better off overall.

So fair trade is losing its power, but ethical consumption is up, and the public recognises it more-and-more. This is great news for people in poverty everywhere, and for the fair trade movement.

So what was fair trade’s purpose? Fair trade was the stepping stone to point us in the right direction. Fair trade brought attention to the issue. Fair trade made the people aware of the problem. Fair trade was a movement, because of a belief.

People are the driving force behind ethical consumption. Fair trade will end one-day, but that day will be the day when we no longer need fair trade. That day will be the day that every company produces and manufactures ethically and fairly. That will be the day to rejoice, because we have succeeded in changing the world – for the better of billions of people who were suffering.

That day may be far away. One thing that will bring it closer is if people talk about fair trade more, consume fair trade more, and invest in fair trade. All these things will accelerate us toward that goal. Social networks, like Facebook and Twitter play a huge role, you can read more about that on the next post.

About the author: Justin is co-founder and CEO of Vital Link Group, a company giving people the power to be part of the movement. To find out more about Vital Link, follow @vitallinkgroup and @justinvitallink or become a fan on Facebook.

Forming an opinion

The more you read, the more you understand. You become more willing to talk, discuss, argue your points of view.

Over the past year I have done a lot of reading – blogs, articles, books – and a lot of listening – conversations with professionals, experts and experienced people. The result. I have an opinion.

In fair trade, I have my criticisms of the system, my opinions on the problems that persist, and most of all I have suggestions for improvements. Having read a lot and paid attention to arguments, I have formed those opinions. I have identified there are areas with which I agree, and many that I do not.

Similarly, being economically interested, I have read about economic systems and recently watched Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” series. This has opened my eyes to a complete Free Enterprise System, where government does not intervene in the matters that belong, wholly, to an individual. I support many of the practices suggested by Friedman, but do not understand some others. Regardless, I have formed an opinion and wish to discuss this with you.

I think in the real world, where people are classified as Left-wing or Right-wing, it is not so black-and-white. Personally, I am perceived as right-wing on some issues, and left-wing on others. But by no means do I completely support all of one side’s arguments over the other side’s.

This leads me to ask the following question: How do you find yourself forming your opinions? And, are they always to the one side of the spectrum?

Look out for the upcoming Vlog :)

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Rethinking “Fair Trade”

For once, I have read a well-educated, and well-argued point of view against the fair trade system. Many of the points that Chris expresses are strong, and not necessarily a negative criticism of fair trade system. He is, rather, pointing out the current issues that MUST be addressed by FLO and WFTO.

Fair Trade versus Premium Coffee?

Had an interesting conversation the other day with a cafe owner I am good friends with. I want to know what you think about his comments, so please comment below :)

I asked whether he was fair trade. To which he responded “No.” So I asked him whether he would convert to fair trade. He answered with something along these lines:

“I already provide coffee that pays the producers a wage higher than market value, they are essentially fair trade. However, the coffee I supply is premium quality. The label of fair trade is not often associated with premium quality beans. I have thus chosen to steer away from fair trade labelling. However, the producers are payed a fair price, and thus the coffee is essentially fair trade.”

I thought this raised a very good point. Fair Trade does have a perception of lower quality, which is strange, considering we are paying the producers more, and often this is a great motivation to do their jobs better and work harder. The perception may be incorrect, but it is there.

What is your perception of fair trade, the label? And what are your thoughts about cafe owners with this view on fair trade coffee?

Fair Trade Arguments cont'd

Hi everyone, this isn’t part of the Fair Trade Argument Series, but part of it will be. Rather, these are some thoughts I have had today about how Fair Trade is often incorrectly perceived, as well as some attitudes that I don’t much agree with or like.

Patricia Kumar (@PatriciaKumar) is an advocate of Fair Trade and is trying to convert her town, Blacktown in Australia, to a Fair Trade town. She has been met with some resistance in converting her local council. Some of the quotes from the council debate are included below with my thoughts surrounding them. Please feel free to comment, and ENJOY :)

“There is nothing we can do, these issues are too big for us to deal with as a Council, we do not have the power to act on this”  (Alan Pendleton, Labor Councillor)

Councils do not have the power to act alone, agreed. But the council is a leader in the community, they can inspire a movement, they can create the environment for a change to happen on a large enough scale. We don’t expect the council to go about being fair trade alone, but we do expect it to be the leader in our communities.

“We know international aid never truly goes there without someone taking a bit from the top” (Alan Pendleton, Labor Councillor)

Firstly, fair trade and aid are not the same. Aid is free money given to governments (often with high levels of corruption) with no constraints and terms of use for that aid. In other words there is no monitoring of that aid; where it goes and to what uses, so it becomes inefficient and, essentially, useless. Aid has had no effect on GDP per capita in developing countries.

Fair Trade on the other hand is a business mechanism. Fair Trade encourages communities and people to start businesses, make money for themselves (which they appreciate and value higher than aid/giveaways), and choose what and how to spend their money. It encourages innovation, leadership and better working and living conditions. It can be seen as an extension of micro-lending, and we have all seen how successful the Grameen bank has been in boosting the Bangladeshi economy.

Fair Trade is about supporting those third world producers, giving them a platform to trade on with the rest of the world. Regardless of whether someone is “skimming”, as long as we support those producers we are doing the world a service.

“We have Fairtrade principles and therefore there is no point in seeking accreditation. We have one of the most ethical procurement guidelines around, we are doing our fair share. Yes, we can do more and we will but we don’t need to be part of the Fairtrade association for it” (Stephen Bali, Labor Councillor)

It is great that the council has Fair Trade principles, but there is a way to prove that, and show case that to the community. By becoming a registered and active member of Fair Trade Towns, the council can display its support of fair trade to the public, and to their communities. In fact, being part of the association and becoming a labelled organisation, the council is being recognised for their commitments to fair trade. I mean why go through all the effort of committing, and not ask for the recognition, right? Become a member, and lead your community in ethical purchasing and fair trade principles.

What do you think? Should the council be a leader for their community? Or should they wait for the community first?


Fair Trade versus Aid

I wanted to discuss Aid and Fair Trade.

Developed countries advocate Aid as a solution to poverty’s problems in developing countries. Has it been working? No.

It is merely a political propaganda to keep the general population happy in those developed countries. If the public thinks that their government is helping with poverty they won’t stand up and shout.

Aid has benefits, but it hasn’t really had any impact on developing countries’ living standards or GDP per capita. This is perhaps because of two reasons: 1) much aid is given to governments who have high rates of corruption, and 2) aid is not monitored (the money may not be distributed to the best industries/regions/uses).

Aid has its flaws. Perhaps the easiest way to empower a country is to empower its people. By encouraging trade with developing countries and giving them a level playing ground, they can earn their income. This will allow the income to be distributed as freely and fairly as possible, and be spent on those things which matter most to the people/the country.

What I have found is that the people, who are in most need of money, would prefer to earn their incomes rather than be given free money. They often  choose to spend it on educating their children. This to me seems like a worthwhile cause. Fair trade advocates earning money, whereas Aid is like free giveaways. Fair Trade is sustainable, Aid is a waste. What do you think is the better solution?

If you want to watch an interesting talk about how Aid funds are actually used versus how they should be used, try this TED.com video by Esther Duflo – Social Experiments to Fight Extreme Poverty.