Fair Trade structures in Austria (after Kathryn’s visit)

I couldn’t let two weeks in Bad Ischl, Austria, pass me by without seeking out a fair trade shop and enquiring about how fair trade is organised in Austria. The local fair trade shop was the “Ischler Weltladen” (Ischl World Shop) which turned out to be independent and very similar to what you might expect to see in a typical BAFTS shop. It seems that it was run by volunteers and had elected its own governance and constitution, which I will mention again a little later on. Hopefully you will enjoy comparing and contrasting the systems in the UK.

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Some of the products in the Ischl World Shop

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More fair trade items in the Ischl World Shop, Upper Austria

The Syndicate of World Shops (ARGE) is the umbrella organisation for fair trade shops in Austria and its member shops are only allowed to use their World Shop logo if they abide by an agreement. Their logo incorporates the wording “Act fairly. Buy purposefully”.  The Syndicate of World Shops (abbreviated to ARGE from its German name) is a member of WFTO and its shops must observe the 10 principles of Fair Trade. That is very similar to BAFTS, but I couldn’t find any information about membership fees or percentages of fair trade required to be held by shops. I assume the 60% laid down by WFTO applies.

ARGE is the “service point” for 90 World Shops and a cafe, and was set up in 1982 out of twelve “Third World” Shops to represent World Shops, improve co-operation between them, advise them and to represent their interests in working with fair trade suppliers. It is also a member of, and represented on, the Committee of FAIRTRADE Austria (their equivalent of our Fairtrade Foundation). It was created to raise public awareness of the context of development politics, and its most important international co-operation is with WFTO, although it also co-operates with eg Clean Clothes Campaign, The German Syndicate of World Shops, Oxfam, and Oikocredit. Its website also has an English version if you are interested.

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The ARGE shop members are not-for-profit and aim to strengthen fair trade projects and campaigns such as World Fair Trade Day, and the Campaign against Child Labour. ARGE also offers them a catalogue of recognised suppliers, to help them choose products which meet strict criteria. They work closely with fair trade importers. The overall turnover of the ARGE World Shops in Austria was 12.6 Million Euros (about £9,000,000). The independent Ischl World Shop invests its profits directly to fund projects which enable self-sufficiency, and feels that globalisation needs a structure to ensure that the profit-orientated market isn’t allowed to dispense with protecting producers, workers and consumers.

One of the main (but by no means the only) distributors and suppliers of Austrian fair Trade Shops is EZA Fairer Handel GmbH (EZA Fair Trade Ltd) a limited liability company which was established in 1975, has three of its own World Shops used primarily for testing the market, and whose profits are reinvested in the company to strengthen fair trade principles. In some ways it reminds me a bit of Traidcraft. There is an English info sheet available here eza_sd_englischneu 

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Prominent EZA fair Trade stand at Ischl SPAR supermarket, Upper Austria

EZA is a member of WFTO, EFTA, helped to initiate the foundation of Fairtrade (one word) and is a licensee of thebio_austria_logo FAIRTRADE Mark. Their products were evident in the Ischl World Shop, and I was pleased to notice them quite widely in supermarkets, although most seemed to be commodities. There is even a Bio-Austria logo, awarded if goods are produced by fair trade partner organisations according to organic farming principles. The EZA website quotes the 94 World Shops and states them as its most important channel of distribution.

As a pure point of comparison to the UK, we currently have 44 BAFTS shop members with a total turnover of around £3,366,000, so there are about twice as many shops in Austria and their total turnover is three times as much. However, the total sales of Fairtrade marked products in Austria is 149 million euro (£106 million), compared with £1.67 billion in the UK – which is ten times as much. That probably has to do with supermarket power in the UK.

Posted in Fair Trade

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