Friday, August 2, 2019

Fair World Project's Anna Canning Speaks

Anna Canning
Keeping Fair Trade Real. That's the motto of Fair World Project, a group advocating fair trade for small-scale producers and labor justice for workers around the world. As owner (and designer) of fair trade jewelry producer, Dunitz & Company, I'm always curious to see what others are doing around the globe. I've been blown away by the impact Fair World Project has made. And this lead me to a conversation with Anna Canning. Anna is the Campaigns Manager for FWP. I was certain that many of you would want to know more about FWP's impact and Anna agreed to be interviewed. Keep reading to hear what she had to say.

NANCY: I'm only recently acquainted with Fair World Project. Unlike Fair Trade Federation and WFTO that are membership organizations, yours focuses on advocacy. Can you tell me about that?

ANNA: That's a good distinction! We do a lot of work both with fair traders and with others working for fair trade, worker justice, and human rights around the globe, mostly within the food and farming (sector). Buying fair trade products and supporting companies that are committed to fair trade is a great way for people to start getting involved.  But the reality is that fair trade farmers and artisans and workers around the world are touched by many issues. A fair market and good trading partners are very important, but there are a lot of things from climate change to unjust trade agreements and discriminatory laws that make it hard. Farmer organizations and worker groups around the world are doing amazing organizing. They have the solutions for the challenges that face their communities. A lot of our advocacy is amplifying those voices and those solutions and bringing people together in conversation.

NANCY: Can you tell me a bit more about your "For A Better World Magazine". How do you decide what to write about? And who and how can potential readers get their hands on this publication?

For A Better World
ANNA: Our For A Better World magazine is one of our biggest educational projects. It comes out twice a year with a print run of 200,000 copies and then downloads from all over the world.  You can find it online, or in local natural food stores, fair trade shops and Whole Foods Markets across the U.S. and Canada.  We also send cases to student groups, group living facilities, faith groups and activists. Anyone who can distribute a case of 100, we love having them help us get the word out. Just drop us a line (at the links here.)

We have an editorial team who helps us curate topics, usually inspired by things we see happening in the world. Sometimes it's a topic that's getting a lot of buzz, sometimes it's a topic that should be getting more.  The current issue was inspired by a coalition that we are part of working on the Real Meals Campaign, advocating for change in the cafeteria systems at universities. Their menus are currently dominated by Big Food companies and we're collectively pushing for them to choose "Real Meals" instead, food that is fair, local, eco-friendly, and doesn't exploit people on the way. We got inspired by that call and in addition to a story on that campaign, there are others profiling the people, organizations, and companies who are living those values and building an alternative to the conventional food systems right now.

NANCY: It appears that FWP has had several 'victories' in advocacy. Is there one you're most proud of? Or you think has had the greatest impact on the greater good?

Stop the TPP Rally
 ANNA: In some ways, it's tough for me to point to a single victory that I would name as "ours." For me, I'm most proud of the ways that we have worked, and continue to work in coalitions with others. We can't claim that we single-handedly stopped the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but working with hundreds, if not thousands, of other groups, we managed to shift the public dialogue to say no to a trade deal putting corporate profits ahead of people. I'm also really proud when I see how the Good Food Purchasing Program continues to spread across the country. We had a role in the development of those standards, and are members of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. It's another way that people have so much power when they come together and push for change.

We have also been working on a campaign supporting an independent farmworker union on a Fyffes' melon plantation in Honduras, with allies including the International Labor Rights Forum. They have been organizing against appalling worker conditions for over a decade: workers haven't been paid wages or benefits earned, pregnant workers have been illegally fired, workers who have tried to stand up for their rights have been assaulted. Their struggle continues. We were horrified when Fair Trade USA went ahead and certified the plantation as "fair trade" last year and launched a campaign to get them to decertify. After nearly 10,000 messages were sent, they finally did the right thing and dropped their certification. That attention forced the Ethical Trading Initiative to finalize their expulsion of Fyffes and they are getting kicked out of supermarkets in Europe too. It's too soon to proclaim victory, but we hope the tide is turning. Overall in the U.S., we think a lot about local food, but then there are all the fruits that we get imported, melons in the winter, bananas, pineapple - and folks really know so little about where those come from. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

NANCY: Your site highlights several alert areas where you ask the public to get involved, or at the least educate themselves. Is there any one specific cause you're most passionate about?

Stand With Coffee Farmers
ANNA: We have an alert right now asking folks to sign in solidarity with small-scale coffee farmers who have issued a really urgent call to action: "We cannot live on $0.90 per pound." I worked in fair trade coffee for almost 15 years before I joined Fair World Project. When I started in coffee, we were talking about how the commodity market where coffee was traded was so distant from farmers' daily realities and the cost of production. And we're still having those conversations now.  I have met so many amazing people whose livelihoods depend on coffee and so I feel really strongly about supporting them. Hopefully you will sign the FWP petition in support. Click here. 

NANCY: I'm impressed that there are so many of you that staff FWP. And you're the Campaign Manager. You've a tough job. Do you fund raise from corporations that may not be 100% fair trade? or are you a fantastic grant writer?

ANNA: I actually don't do our fundraising, that's our Executive Director's job. But we have very high standards for who we would take money from, and definitely fair trade is a key part of that.

NANCY: Yours is a pretty intense job Can you tell me what you do for fun in your free time?

ANNA: I love my job so much, but it can be very intangible.  The change we are working for is slow, and on many days it feels like a lot of writing and a lot of phone calls. As an antidote to that, I love to make things, knitting, sewing, dyeing and gardening. I also spend a lot of time sitting and typing so (I enjoy) getting outside for walking, biking, hiking, yoga.

NANCY: Anything else you'd like to share?

ANNA: Thank you for the opportunity to share with you and your readers. My final words would just be to encourage people to do just one thing to express their values every day.
--end of interview-- 

I'm totally with Anna on that one. "Do one thing to express your values every day." Love it! No one person can change the world. Collectively our small contributions make a huge difference.

If you aren't familiar with the Fair World Project website, I strongly encourage you to check it out. There's a wealth of information on so many topics.  I think their simple guide to Fair Trade & Worker Justice Certifications is really helpful. It seems each time I go shopping, I see new stickers on the food I purchase. This guide explains them all.
Mission Driven Brands

Looking for Mission Driven Brands? Fair World Project has screened many food, clothing and craft vendors. I'm thrilled to say Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry is listed. If you have a store, you might find a new, ethical resource here.

Thank you so much to Anna for taking the time to answer my questions with so much thought. I'm certain she has shed light on several topics we all wanted to know more about. -ND