Harriet Lamb, the Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, talks about her life and work.
Why did you choose a career in international development?
My key learning experience was living as a child in India. I saw that people in developing countries can solve their own problems if we as rich countries create that framework. This can be through world trade, the way we do business and how we shop.
Who is your biggest influence?
Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. That is what guides me as a leader. I try to practise what I preach.
How do you inspire people?
If you only look at the problems, you will only have problems. But if you look positively for solutions, they will always be there. And if you are positive, you energize and inspire people.
What’s your business mantra?
You have to trust your instincts and take risks. One of the biggest risks was taking the decision to allow big firms like Nestlé to use the FAIRTRADE Mark on their products. I felt this was right, but there were many doomsayers who said this would ruin our image. Now, retailers are among our biggest buyers. Often, the biggest risk is in doing nothing.
Fairtrade sales hit £1.17 billion last year. Why do you think Fairtrade is such a success story?
You have to make it easy for the public to create change. Most people don’t contribute to preventing climate change or fighting poverty because they think their small contribution won’t make a difference. We say that just by changing your brand of bananas, you can help a poor farmer to send his children to school.
Is it consumer demand that has driven companies to increase their ranges of Fairtrade products?
Companies need a good business reason to support a social cause. No company can refuse to support something that its customers want it to support. When I first approached businesses to persuade them to use Fairtrade products, I was shy. My passion for change did not seem to fit their agenda. But now, with such big public demand for Fairtrade products, I think, “why shouldn’t they want to change?”
How do you juggle work and family?
Any job can be done in four days a week. I’ve learned that as a working mother. Having a family means you have to limit your working time. This is a good thing, as you can only bring enthusiasm, energy and a positive attitude into your work if you have a good work-life balance.
Has being a mother made you a better leader?
I bring some of my skills as a parent into my leadership. I give my children choices and let them make decisions, rather than telling them what to do. It encourages responsibility and confidence, and this is what I also want in my staff.
What are the next steps for the Fairtrade Foundation?
More Fairtrade farmers and more Fairtrade certified products – the only way is up! A bigger share of the Out of Home market and a Fair Olympics. People going to the London 2012 will be able to enjoy to Fairtrade bananas, tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate, but my vision is to see Fairtrade cotton teeshirts, the winners receiving medals with Fairtrade gold and getting bouquets of Fairtrade flowers.
Visit the Fairtrade Fortnight website
The next Fairtrade Fortnight will take place from 27 February - 11 March 2012 and will mark the 20th anniversary since the launch of Fairtrade in the UK.
The theme in 2012 is 'Take a step' and the Fairtrade Foundation is asking everyone to take a step for Fairtrade. It can be a simple step, like swapping your tea to Fairtrade, or a bigger step, like asking everyone in your office to do it too.
Fairtrade Fortnight resources
Download our Learn school assemblies. They challenge children to think about what is fair and unfair and to understand what is meant by fair trade.
Primary assembly (7-11 years old)
Secondary assembly (11-14 years old)
Photo: Fairtrade Foundation