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March 2011Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.net13Nexus Collections' MD Nick Jonesdrives some key points on the Fairtrade bandwagon.A thirst for FairtradeFairtrade practices have become a norm for many westerncompanies and they are becomingmore important to the event industry inEurope. While EU laws ensure staffwelfare and high standards ofemployment, even European-basedevents organised by European-basedindividuals will often require products or services from further afield. How can anyone hope to claim they are running a socially responsibleevent if they are serving coffee from an inappropriate source? It is vital that we all take time to consider the wholesupply chain when planning our next event.The gradual success of Fairtrade overthe last few years has largely been dueto strict enforcement of employment,welfare and environmental laws. Inrecent years, growing publicconsciousness of using eco-friendlyproducts and services has madecompanies do more to become green but there is more work to be done. Such action should not be taken for legal reasons but from a genuine desireto improve the world around us andbenefit other people. According to the UK Co-operativeBank's annual Ethical ConsumerismReport, the ethical market in the UKgrew by 18 per cent over the last twoyears and the Fairtrade mark hasbecome a common sight on oursupermarket shelves. It is also growing as an element of our events and tradeshows. To maintain a level of Fairtradeawareness and achievement, manycompanies ensure that they meet theFairtrade standards at every stage oftheir production. To do so, they issuestrict guidelines to suppliers or deal withsuppliers that have a sound record ofFairtrade - why should the event industrybe any different?As previously mentioned, supply chaincommunications are not generally aproblem in Europe (although there wasthe unforgettable story recently ofchildren working on a British potatofarm). They do however become a littlemore murky once we step beyond ourown borders. In countries like China,which dominates the world'smanufacturing and supply; Fairtrade laws are not strictly enforced. Mostcompanies do not provide healthyworking conditions for employees, forcingthem to work for long hours at aminimum wage. Unfair treatment ofworkers has lead to labour unrest inChina with workers demanding betterworking conditions, wages and otheremployment benefits.Out of China's 200 biggest exporters,153 are foreign that supply products forthe first world. It is a fact that many ofthe suppliers to these exporters,particularly the local companies, areturning a blind eye to the workers'demands of higher wages and betterworking conditions. Clearly, manyFairtrade and green consumers here inthe EU, including event organisers, couldbe purchasing products unaware of theirbackground. All our work to adhere toBS8901 and other CSR standardsbecomes a mockery when the threemiles of cable needed to light an eventcome from a Far Eastern sweat shop. Complying with Fairtrade is importantto ensure a decent standard of living forthe workers and their families in factoriesall over the world. It is important thatpeople who make the products weconsume are not exploited and haveaccess to proper welfare measures. Environmentally, Fairtrade can be usedas an effective tool to fight climatechange. In many countries, the supply ofperishable commodities is dwindling dueto the exploitation of land and water.The clear message from the Fairtrademovement is that many of the productswhich we enjoy (and by the bucket loadat events) such as coffee, tea, fruit andNexus invested US$200K in a modern factory for its Chineseworkforce that produces conferencebags and other accessories for themeetings industryCSR????'Out of China's 200biggest exporters, 153are foreignthat supply products forthe first world'Nick Jones Conference+Meetings WorldMarch 2011CSRchocolate are likely to becomeincreasingly scarce and expensive as climate change kicks in. Surely ittherefore makes sense to use ethicalsources if we hope to continue supplying tea to our delegates foranother 50 years.In essence, Fairtrade is an organisedsocial movement and market-basedapproach that aims to help producers indeveloping countries make better tradingconditions and promote sustainability.What, therefore, should you look for in a Fairtrade supplier? Attributes couldinclude: decent wage policies, healthyworking environment like hygienic toilets,recreational facilities, fresh air and cleanwater and reasonable working shifts.These are all taken for granted here inthe UK but are considered luxuries formany. The employer must also ensurethat the workers have additionalemployee benefits such as staff holidays. Here at Nexus, we are very consciousabout employees' rights to such anextent that we recently invested overUS$200,000 in a Fairtrade factory inChina, making it (we believe) the world'sfirst ethical manufacturing facility forconference bags. Above all, the factory isdesigned to ensure the highest level ofworking conditions to its employees. As apart of our recent developments, the newfactory and offices are fully airconditioned using an environmentallyresponsible eco-water cooling system andhave modern recreational facilities. In acountry, where employees live on site(often only returning home once peryear) we have provided brand new staffquarters with eco-friendly hot watersupply using solar power and havecreated a homely feel - rather than theusual "bunk-house" style ofaccommodation. The staff canteen hasbeen completely refurbished into a staffrestaurant. These facilities have set newstandards for Chinese workers in thetextile sector along with higher wages,staff bonus schemes and additional staffholidays. We have even organisedthemed parties and upgraded the foodchoices in the restaurant to ensure allcultural tastes are catered for and whichthe staff enjoys. We believe that the industry mustbecome more CSR focused - thegroundwork has been laid but there isstill a long way to go and we intend tobe a part of that process.Fairtrade is not just a marketing buzzword, but a pre-requisite for ethicalbusiness practices in the 21st century. It is our moral responsibility to respecthuman rights and care for our planet.We need to ensure that our partners andsuppliers in the developing world adoptFairtrade practices and provide goodworking conditions and welfare measuresfor employees. While it is great toconsume cheaper products, it is alsoimperative to ensure that the productsare not made at the cost of human livesand the environment. "Fairtrade is not just a marketing buzz word," says Nick JonesNexus' China headquarters has modern recreational facilities