Not our cup of tea: Woodford Green parishioners call on Sainsbury’s to reconsider Fairtrade move

A group of locals from Woodford Green have called on Sainsbury’s to reconsider its plan to drop the Fairtrade mark from its Red and Gold Label tea. Along with 150,000 others across the country, parishioners David Underwood and Peter Sherlock at St. Thomas of Canterbury got 183 parishioners and friends to sign the petition locally, which was then emailed to the local Sainsbury’s store manager in South Woodford and to the company’s CEO. Sainsbury’s in nearby Loughton had previously been very supportive of the parish’s Fairtrade efforts, for example by kindly donating Fairtrade bananas for Fairtrade fortnight.

The parish was confirmed as a Fairtrade parish in March 2009 and has since been a great proponent of Fairtrade. Upon hearing of the parish’s commitment to Fairtrade, the Waitrose branch in Buckhurst Hill very generously donated Fairtrade tea and coffee for refreshments served after Sunday masses in the parish – and has more recently renewed its support after recently restating its own commitment to the Fairtrade mark. Fairtrade tea and coffee are provided free of charge after services at the church and any donations received from parishioners are given to charity.

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Members of the 10am Mass Fairtrade tea team at St Thomas of Canterbury in South Woodford

David Underwood, who led the parish’s campaign, said: “Tea can be powerful. Every Fairtrade cuppa makes a difference to the lives of tea farmers and workers in some of the world’s poorest communities. We believe Sainsbury’s are weakening this power by ditching the Fairtrade Mark from their own-brand tea and replacing it with a ‘Fairly Traded’ label. It’s very likely to mislead customers who may think ‘Fairly Traded’ is the same as independent Fairtrade certification. It’s not. And many of our parishioners and friends as customers of Sainsbury’s clearly wanted to let them know how they feel.”

The parishioners’ outcries were sparked by Sainsbury’s announcement in May that it was to replace Fairtrade certification with its own ‘Fairly Traded’ scheme for its Red and Gold Label tea.

While Sainsbury’s has said its scheme will mimic Fairtrade in providing a fair price for goods and an additional social premium, under ‘Fairly Traded’ farmers and producers lose direct control of the additional money raised from their products and decisions on funding are taken instead by a board established by Sainsbury’s in the UK.

Groups including CAFOD, Christian Aid and the National Union of Students (NUS) are calling on chief executive Mike Coupe to rethink the supermarket’s plans.

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The petition to the local Sainsbury’s in Woodford made the front page in the local press!

Since the retailer made its announcement, over 150,000 people have signed a petition calling for Sainsbury’s to rethink its decision, with nearly 40 MPs backing a parliamentary motion calling on supermarkets to support Fairtrade in the face of Sainsbury’s move.

Fairtrade tea sales globally are worth an estimated £5 million in Fairtrade premiums for certified farmers and workers. British tea drinkers account for 80% of Fairtrade tea sales globally, with Sainsbury’s the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade products.

Chris Driscoll, CAFOD’s representative in Woodford Green, said:

“We’re very thankful to the parishioners from St. Thomas of Canterbury for showing their local Sainsbury’s that they care about keeping Fairtrade.  If this was parliament, then over 100,000 people signing a petition would be enough to secure a debate on what Sainsbury’s is doing.

“The Fairtrade mark is widely recognised, hugely trusted and we want to see it back on Sainsbury’s own-brand tea.  Hopefully the acts of David and other parishioners will help Sainsbury’s come to that decision too!”

Ficamaua! A young person reflects…

Chris Burkette is a young person from the Brentwood Diocese who is currently on CAFOD’s Step into the GAP programme. He writes:Chris cropped

“I recently ran a CAFOD workshop to help inform young people within the Brentwood Diocese of the events unfolding in the Maua community. As part of this workshop they were required to build a ‘home’ anywhere on the retreat site, to be as welcoming and cosy as they saw fit. After having visited each home, I was then tasked with destroying this space and leaving an eviction notice for them. Together we learnt about how this was connected to the situation in Sao Paulo: a place once left in need of rejuvenation but now blossoming…this all thanks to the locals there who over the past decade have put such hard work into returning the place to its original beauty.

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Ficamaua! Brentwood youth gather to show their support for residents in the Maua community in Sau Paulo, Brazil

Until recently all of this was being threatened due to a court order to evict the 237 families from their homes at the end of November. To our great joy this eviction has been averted with the recent agreement between the housing department and the owner of the building for the purchase of the Maua building for around £4.6 million (20 million reais).

CAFOD believes that everyone has the power within them to stand up to such cases of injustice. CAFOD ask people to GAP: Give. Act. Pray. An amazing 4,000 people across England and Wales have signed the petition to demonstrate their solidarity with the people of the Maua community in Sao Paulo. We will continue to show our solidarity through our actions and prayers as we do in all cases of injustice and threats to human dignity.

Pope Francis; a shining example of someone who believes in and leads a life of generous giving reminds us “We should always remember the dignity and rights of those who work, condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and help to ensure authentic progress by man and society.” I relate this to the hard work the residents have put into renovating their community. I believe that it is our duty to demonstrate our belief in their dignity through not only kind acts but through responding to this eviction order.

Facu Mau sign (002)I personally believe that it can be very difficult in the world today to know exactly when we should show signs of love to others around us due to fear of being manipulated or taken advantage of. To show love to others is to take a rather bold step; one of which a large amount of Faith is required to achieve”.

Power to Be campaign spans the generations at Shoeburyness parish

Brian Fitzgerald, chair  of the ‘senior’ Justice and Peace team at St George and the English Martyrs, Shoeburyness, describes how CAFOD’s Power to Be campaign captured the imagination and support of people of a range of ages in the parish…

The parishioners of St George & the English Martyrs, Shoeburyness, listened spellbound to very distinct Power To Be presentations on the weekend of 30th September/1st October.

The parish has 2 Justice & Peace groups – A Youth group, aged from 11 to 17 years, and a Senior group, comprising mainly of Senior Citizens.  Following attendance at the National Justice & Peace Network meeting in Romero House in May the idea was hatched that the groups could utilise their differing  talents  to launch the campaign during the masses before the World Bank meetings  in October.

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Members of the Youth J&P group at St George’s present the Power to Be campaign to parishioners

Our Parish Priest, Fr Brett, was typically enthusiastic to encourage participation from a range of lay people. (He was even more so when he realised that on the weekend in question he would be recovering from jet lag following a transatlantic flight).  Thus the idea became reality:

Every child has the power in them to achieve great things

The Youth group leaders combined with the Chair of the Senior group to edit a Powerpoint presentation ensuring that it retained the required impact.  The young members of the group were so enthusiastic that we were able to have different teams presenting at each of the 2 masses, a Youth Mass and a regular sung Mass, in St George`s church.

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Signed Power to Be action cards placed at the altar at St George’s

Meanwhile, it was decided that the Senior group would present the campaign at the Mass at the  Chapel of St Gregory in nearby Thorpe Bay. At this Mass we limited ourselves to a short talk, edited to include pertinent facts and figures, presented impeccably by our most senior member, Brigid Hogan, a sprightly 90 year old, and prayers of intercession.

Fr Brett reinforced the message behind the campaign with carefully chosen words of reflection at the end of each celebration and the reaction of those present was extremely positive with nearly 300 petition cards completed.