By
Louisa Meury
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24 July, 2012

(Photo: Divine Chocolate)
(Photo: Divine Chocolate)
What does it mean to have trust and integrity in the global economy? On Sunday, 22 July, the morning plenary at Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy in Caux, Switzerland, focused on ethical economics and social entrepreneurship in two vastly different sectors.

Radike Khanna is the founder of Om Creations, a Mumbai-based NGO that aims to create a meaningful life for the mentally handicapped. According to Khanna, the disabled are regarded very negatively in India. This, she believes, is partly due to a culture of misinterpretation in which the mentally challenged are shunned for misdeeds thought to have been committed in previous lives. Although the social stigma is strong, the institutional stigma is just as crushing. There is almost no government support for the disabled, and only last year did the state begin to provide education for those with special needs.

Om Creations grew out of Khanna’s lifelong belief in helping those in need, and the recognition that the less-able in India have nothing to strive for but institutionalization. Om Creations trains women with disabilities to make arts, crafts, and sweets, as well as providing a community, when in the past the disabled were hidden away. The women are provided with a stipend from the sale of the goods, which has tripled since the opening of Om Creations. Om Creations makes and sells hand-crafted goods, but its true purpose is healing, training, and the creation of an accepting community. Both staff and trainees alike find Om Creations to be a therapeutic and welcoming environment.

In Ghana, Bob Doherty, Head of the Business School at Liverpool Hope University, partnered with the cocoa-growing cooperative of farmers, Kuapa Kokoo. Ghana liberalized its cocoa production in 1993, and a group of small-production cocoa farmers formed the cooperative. Kuapa Kokoo, which means ‘Good Cocoa Farming’, earned its Fairtrade certification in 1995.

With the help of partners and investors, Kuapa Kokoo launched Divine Chocolate, a UK-based company, in 1998. The cooperative was already earning a Fairtrade price selling their cocoa to other companies when they decided to make Divine Chocolate from ‘Papa paa’, or the best of the best, of their cocoa beans. Kuapa Kokoo farmers own 45% of the company and occasionally represent Divine in meetings with potential buyers in the UK. Two representatives are board directors, and a quarter of the board meetings take place in Ghana.

Divine Chocolate is a Fairtrade company, meaning that not only are their cocoa beans Fairtrade, but so is the sugar that goes into the chocolate. In the 14 years of production, Divine Chocolate has opened an office in the United States and has been voted Best Social Enterprise in 2007 and Observer Best Ethical Business in 2008.

Doherty sees big companies such as Nestle as his ‘Goliath’. One of the many challenges associated with the Fairtrade industry is meeting the demand at a respectable price. Fairtrade prices are, on average, 25–30% higher than competitive market prices, and rely almost entirely upon an ethics-driven clientele. The trend of mainstream brands meeting the minimal standards of Fairtrade has split the industry; Divine, which is entirely Fairtrade, has to compete with larger companies that only use some Fairtrade cocoa, meaning that a bar of milk chocolate may only use 25% Fairtrade products, and thus can be produced much more competitively. Beyond the price differential, these ‘goliaths’ miss out on the direct contact with the farmers and do not share as much profit.

The biggest challenge facing the Fairtrade movement today is representation in markets and grocery stores. According to Doherty, any product can be made into a Fairtrade product; the difficulty and length of the process that goes into achieving the Fairtrade standard narrows the market.
 

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