Bicester has become the 500th Fairtrade town today. The Oxfordshire town joins a growing international Fairtrade towns movement, which spans 19 countries and unites capital cities such as Rome, Brussels, Paris and London with small market towns and remote Scottish Islands.
A group of 14 Fairtrade supporters in Bicester have been working for the last four years to make their town a Fairtrade Town. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, which administers the scheme, the group has worked hard to meet the five goals required for Fairtrade towns status. These include getting local workplaces and community organisations to use Fairtrade products whenever possible, including a flagship employer. The Bicester group succeeded in getting regional rail company Chiltern Railways to switch all their onboard coffee and hot chocolate to Fairtrade. The campaign group has also been working with local faith groups and schools, with the result two thirds of local churches are now using Fairtrade products. Half of local schools have also been actively supporting the campaign.
Colin Cockshaw from the Oxford Fairtrade steering group said: “Being number 500 is really great. It has been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. The town campaign has brought people of all ages together in a community-building task which we hope will be of lasting benefit to Bicester. We also hope this achievement provides a platform for future growth in the use of Fairtrade products in our town and of local people’s understanding of the difference that buying Fairtrade can make.”
The Fairtrade towns movement was launched 10 years ago when Garstang in Lancashire declared itself the world’s first Fairtrade town at a public meeting in April 2000. Five goals were then developed through which any community could make a collective commitment to Fairtrade. Since 2000, the grassroots movement has swelled to include 6,000 Fairtrade faith groups; almost 5,000 schools registered in the Fairtrade schools scheme; and 127 Fairtrade universities and colleges.
Harriet Lamb, executive director for the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Congratulations to Bicester for becoming the 500th Fairtrade Town and to all the Fairtrade campaigners who have been involved in this extraordinary grassroots movement that has been one of the outstanding phenomena of the decade. “Through their tireless campaigning they have won the hearts and minds of consumers and helped Fairtrade sales in the UK grow. Fairtrade towns have helped to tip the balance in favour of some of the poorest producers in the world and we hope that with the continued growth in Fairtrade towns internationally we will see similar successes across Europe and beyond.”