The flourishing scheme to invite the United Kingdoms towns
to turn and work more closely with Fairtrade was begun by the Fairtrade
Foundation in the year 2000 and as first anticipated, proved to
be an immense success.
For six years now cities, islands, boroughs and villages alike
have been gradually signing up to receive the title of Fairtrade
town, and currently there are 205 members who have joined from all
over the U.K, including Edinburgh, Swansea and many parts of London.
Recognizing the impact that fair trade was making in the world,
York joined the ever growing list of Fairtrade cities throughout
the United Kingdom in March 2004, to declare their significant part
in making the world a better and less unjust place.
But what does it actually mean to belong to this scheme and what
specifically has York done to achieve the title of Fairtrade
In 2004 York accepted the challenge to dedicate itself to the work
of Fairtrade and followed the example of the first ever Fairtrade
town (Garstang). A voluntary group named the York Fair Trade Forum
was set up to make the transformation.
However, the criteria to formulate this change took a while to
bring into practice, as it demanded that the following conditions
were met. In the time subsequent to the start of the groups
campaign, the city achieved these five requirements and received
York council passed a resolution stating their commitment and
support for the work of Fairtrade, and promised that they would
continue to serve Fairtrade coffee and tea at meetings as well
as within the council offices and canteens.
Relative to York’s population of 181,000 people, a target was
set to ensure that Fairtrade produce was (and always would be)
easy to find and purchase from anywhere within the city.
A number of local places within the community (e.g. schools,
churches etc) or workplaces agreed that they would use/sell Fairtrade
The council proved that there was a lot of popular support for
A local and enthusiastic Fairtrade group was organized to make
certain that the city remained true to everything it promised
Of course, the initial idea is brilliant, and will no doubt make
an impact in the work of Fairtrade, but is it really enough?
Unfortunately, until recently, the fact that my home town was part
of this movement was entirely new to me and I am sure that many
other York citizens are unaware of the status which we have held
for over a year.
I have, however, purchased many fairly traded products from shops
which have mainly been established and supported because of the
second of the requirements listed above.
More publicity and nation-wide recognition would naturally be a
huge benefit to the scheme and I feel that this is what is slightly
hindering its success.
This could be easily resolved by adding an additional point to
the criteria needed, to state that the city will promote and publicize
Fairtrade through leaflets, posters, meetings or perhaps even a
phone line specifically meant for queries revolving around the work
of Fairtrade and the way that York is involved.
Nonetheless, this year’s fair trade fortnight was an ideal opportunity
for York to celebrate its first year as a Fairtrade town and to
let York’s general public know more about the city's status through
activities and coffee mornings, leaflets and newsletters. It provided
a much needed boost in publicity.
This status is something for York to be really proud of and although
it seems very improbable at the moment, I hope that in years to
come, the whole of the United Kingdom will be part of the scheme.