Co-operative converts own label roses to Fairtrade status before Valentine’s Day

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The Co-operative Food claims it will become the first retailer in the UK to switch all own brand bunches of standard roses and single stem roses to Fairtrade today (11 February 2013).

As part of The Co-operative’s ongoing commitment to Fairtrade, and a pledge made in its Ethical Plan that, if it can be Fairtrade, it will be. The rose conversion is the latest Fairtrade first by the pioneering retailer.

This move comes just ahead of Valentine’s Day, giving British shoppers the chance to surprise their loved ones with bunches of Fairtrade flowers.

From 11 February 2013, all of The Co-operative’s standard rose bunches and single stems will be sourced from Fairtrade-certified growers inKenya, from suppliers Finlays and JZ Flowers

Finlays is one of the world’s largest producers and packers of Fairtrade flowers, and all of Finlays farms in Kenya are Fairtrade certified. This means the workers can invest the premium received from the sale of the Fairtrade flowers back into the local community, and the farm operation meets the high ethical and environmental standards laid down by Fairtrade.

Funds are managed by an independently elected workers’ committee. So far, the Fairtrade premium has been invested in healthcare and education, and has funded high-school bursaries, school desks, classrooms, hospital equipment and a community bus.

Finlays grows 72 hectares of roses on its Kingfisher and Flamingo farms, near Lake Naivasha in the Rift Valley Province, and a further 65 ha at Tarakwet and Chemirei Farms in Kericho. In addition, Finlays works closely with other growers such as Bigot Flowers limited, which also grows roses near Lake Naivasha. Supported with Fairtrade funds, Bigot have been able to build classrooms in local secondary schools, and buy desks for primary school children amongst many other projects.

JZ Flowers source roses from Tulaga Flowers, based on Lake Naivasha, Kenya. Tulaga was formed in 2008, and Fairtrade certified in 2010. Benefits of the Fairtrade system mean that all employees are on a permanent contract and have access to an on-site clinic. Additionally, organic waste from greenhouses is composted and given to neighbouring farms free of charge. 

JZ flowers is a member of the world’s largest flower group, the Dutch Flower Group (DFG), and sources over 1.5m rose stems every week from East Africa.

Brad Hill, Fairtrade development manager for The Co-operative Food, said: “This is a great achievement for the Fairtrade movement, and we are very proud to have become the first retailer in the UK to make this important step. Fairtrade guarantees growers in developing countries a better life and a brighter future, and this move will be the first of many for us this year, as we honour our commitment to ensuring that, if our products can be Fairtrade, they will be.”

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Congratulations to The Co-operative for going further for flower workers this Valentine’s Day. Fairtrade is making a lasting difference to communities of flower producers in Kenya – from helping to transform environmental impact to providing dedicated healthcare to women in the local area. The Co-operative’s commitment is an inspirational pledge of support for all that the flower workers want to achieve.

“We’re asking everyone to go further this Fairtrade Fortnight, to try a new Fairtrade product or pledge their support online. Thanks to the incredible public support for Fairtrade more and more companies are increasing the range and availability of products with the Fairtrade Mark. The Co-operative has been a strong supporter of Fairtrade from the beginning and this latest commitment will be hugely valued by shoppers and producers alike”.

The Fairtrade rose conversion will be made in time for Fairtrade Fortnight 2013 (25 February to 10 March 2013 inclusive). This year, The Co-operative is also celebrating 10 years since it became the first and only retailer in the UK to convert all of its own-brand coffee to Fairtrade, and plans to encourage shoppers to switch to Fairtrade products with a wide range of promotions and money-saving deals.