By Emily Pearce, Fairtrade Officer

Our journey started back in 1994, when we became one of the first UK supermarkets to pioneer Fairtrade products in our stores. By 1998, every one of our stores stocked Fairtrade products and we’re proud to continue to offer these to customers in 100% of our Food stores.

In 2000, we were the first retailer to bring Fairtrade bananas to the UK. These were sourced from Volta River Estates Limited (VREL), a small banana growing association in Ghana, who successfully went on to become one of the first Fairtrade certified banana suppliers in the world. Amazingly, many of our bananas still come from VREL today.

Our Fairtrade banana journey may have started in 2000, but we’ve made huge leaps since then:

  • 2000 – the first retailer to bring Fairtrade bananas to the UK
  • 2007 – the first retailer to stock Fairtrade bananas in every store
  • 2012 – switched all our bananas to Fairtrade
  • 2012 – launched our unique banana sourcing plan committing to a 100% supply from co-operatives and 50% from smallholder farmers
  • 2019 – provided financial support for Productivity Increase Programme (PIP) banana production in Dominican Republic as part of our ingredient commitment
  • 2020 – celebrating 20 years of Fairtrade bananas at Co-op

There’s a human story behind every product. By selling Fairtrade bananas (and our other fantastic Fairtrade products), we can help make a tangible difference to the lives of the producers, workers and their communities.

I was lucky enough to visit VREL in October 2019 and got to see first-hand the impact our Fairtrade and One Water commitments have made to producers and their communities. We were proud to open a new school block for the children of Senchi Ferry, Ghana, just one of three communities who’ve had a school block funded by the Fairtrade Premium. Beforehand, these children were taught under trees.

The Premium generated from the sales in our stores has also helped to fund a hospital admin block and specially treated mosquito nets to protect against malaria. Find out more about the impact of our commitment here.

Since 2007, we’ve also donated 3p per litre of Co-op branded water sold to The One Foundation, which is invested in clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects around the world. 50% of the money raised supports projects in Co-op Fairtrade producer communities too, and has provided thousands of people in VREL’s community with access to safe and affordable water. Tony Blay, VREL Agricultural Director, explains more:

Our commitment continues

Elsewhere in our banana supply chain, we’ve taken steps to further support banana producers by investing funds for projects like the Productivity Increase Programme (PIP). This aims to improve the health of soil by using organic matter and micro-organisms, helping to increase the resistance to pathogens while reducing water and chemical use.

In 2019 we funded the programme – specifically supporting five small producer organisations in the Dominican Republic. The results have been remarkable as the producers experienced higher productivity at their banana farms. In 2018 they were able to produce 1,744 boxes per hectare which increased to 2,011 boxes per hectare in 2019.

Our Ethical Consumer Report found that 20 years ago the retail Fairtrade market was worth £21.8m. Fast forward to today and it’s estimated that UK consumers spend almost £290m on Fairtrade bananas alone, with the total market estimated to now be worth £1.6bn and a third of bananas sold in the UK are now Fairtrade.

The rate of growth has been astonishing and it’s clear to see the positive impact Fairtrade has. Here’s to all the amazing things we can accomplish by working together over the next 20 years. #ChooseFairtrade