Ask for Fairtrade (a twitter experiment)

Update: @askforfairtrade now has it’s own blog over here…

Have you asked for the Fairtrade option in a coffee shop that advertise it as an extra and been met by a bemused look from the person serving, been told that it’s out of stock, or simply been told they don’t sell Fairtrade coffee, in spite of the big Fairtrade logo on their menu?

I have. Quite a lot of times. And it’s really frustrating.

So, this morning I set up an @askforfairtrade account on Twitter to start finding our who the worst offenders are.

If you’re a regular coffee-shop hopper and you’re amongst the twitterati, then follow askforfairtrade, and when you’re next getting a caffine fix, make sure you request the Fairtrade option. Report the response you get by tweeting an update to @askforfairtrade.

I’ll aim to collate the reports on a regular basis and will get in touch with the best and the worst of the coffee chains to let them know how they are doing and to put the pressure on to keep Fairtrade on the menu.

Why does this matter?
Fairtrade matters. When a mug of coffee with the Fairtrade Mark is sold in place of a bog standard brew the farmers of the coffee beans are getting a guaranteed price for their labour, and a social premium is being invested in health, education and infrastructure projects in producer communities. Asking for the Fairtrade option makes a tangible difference. (Read more about the different Fairtrade makes on the Fairtrade Foundation Website)

Big companies are actively misleading consumers, giving the impression that their coffee is ethically produced and certified to Fairtrade standards, when in fact, Fairtrade is only available as an optional extra, and no effort is taken to actively encourage customers to ask for Fairtrade. In fact, from my experience, the level of service when trying to ask for the Fairtrade option actively discourages it.

By collecting reports of whether or not coffee shops and chains are living up to their promise to provide a Fairtrade option we can put pressure on them to make sure staff are trained, and products are in stock, for choosing the Fairtrade option to be the easy option. And we can demonstrate the consumer demand for Fairtrade as standard.

11 thoughts on “Ask for Fairtrade (a twitter experiment)”

  1. Hi Tim,
    I came accross your blog this morning and think your ask for fairtrade experiment is a great idea. Cafédirect (where I work) has a whole lot of campaign kits that include fairtrade samples, a dvd on fairtrade and (drumroll) request cards, that are a really easy way of suggesting that shops and cafes to stock fairtrade. You can get a free kit sent out to you (it also has loads of other ideas and resources) by becoming a friend of Cafédirect.
    Good luck
    (I may have to work out Twitter and have a look)

  2. I think they’ve improved more recently but I know at [the conference & training centre I used to work at] the Fair Trade stuff only came out for select customers ie. the posh ones or the ‘eco’ ones! I think it was most likely to do with saving costs that it wasn’t out more generally but it does show a misuse of Fair Trade which is one of my biggest concerns about it – so good idea to challenge this Tim 😉

  3. hey tim, I hadn’t even realised that this was going on. I’ve seen that fairtrade logo all over the place and naturally assumed it was ‘all fairtrade’ … hmm, you’ve got me thinking now. I’ll look out for it in future.

  4. Hey Tim,

    You ought to create an easy access list of cafes and coffeehouses that have been found fair-trade-friendly through this experiment of yours. It would be useful, not having to read through everyone’s comments.

  5. Hey Jackie

    I’ll see what we can do as the experiment builds up. Right now we’ve only had around 10 or 15 reports – and often I would find it tricky from the twitter reports to exactly locate the cafes and coffee houses mentioned.

    But I’ll have a think about whether we could make anything meaningful like the UKSnow experiment which encouraged participants to use a standard format in Tweets in order to gather data and map it… See

  6. This is an awesome idea. I think it would be great to use the info you have to put together a google map listing all the known fair trade coffee houses

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