Trading Yet Sharing = Changing the System

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, by Adrian Wiedmer Fair Trade
We are changing the rules

There are many paths to fairer trade. Sharing is very effective. Sharing is both a radical departure from the system and good for business. We share turnover, profits and power.

In fair trade, farmers receive a minimum price and their cooperatives receive a premium per kilogramme of raw product. Then, the traders take over. Importers, processors and supermarkets fix the prices and add a margin at every step. In the end, fair trade products are expensive. Yet farmers receive the smallest share of the sales price – not due to anyone acting in bad faith, but because the trading system is simply built that way. In this system, the farmers just supply the raw goods and the rest happens without them.

We’re changing that by considering the supply chain as a whole. The family farmers receive part of the price that our customers pay. The more a product is processed, such as chocolate, the greater their share. So we initially pay the families in accordance with the normal organic pricing, and then we offer them a share of our turnover – 10%. This turns customers, farmers and gebana into a single team working towards a common goal. Customers pay the sales price, the farmers get 10% and gebana brings the two parties together. This sharing-based approach is more efficient than optimising margins at every step. Of course, we can only share what we actually sell. As a result, the entire team, especially the farmers, take an interest in the customers – not just the marketing team at the end of the chain.

When this teamwork generates profits, we share that too: we share it equally among all our employees in the North and in the South, our investors and our customers. The farmers aren’t included, since they have already gotten their share. We share our profits with our customers as well in the form of coupons, preferential pricing and special customer programs about which you’ll soon be able to learn more.

We’re currently implementing our new trading system step-by-step. You can learn more about how our first experience in Burkina Faso by reading our report "gebana money nana".

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