By Barbara Crowther, Director, Communications and Policy, Fairtrade Foundation
The Fairtrade movement is mourning the loss of John Bowes a Fairtrade pioneer and dedicated advocate, who passed away on Sunday (July 23) following a short illness.
His commitment stretches back to the early days of Fairtrade, beginning with his role with the Cooperative Retail group, then as Chief Executive of the 100% Fairtrade fruit company Agrofair UK, and most recently, the Chair of Twin, a producer-owned organisation that pioneered many of the UK’s leading 100% Fairtrade brands, including Cafédirect, Divine Chocolate and Liberation Nuts,
Earlier this year, John acted as editor of the new book The Fair Trade Revolution.
In the final chapter of The Fair Trade Revolution, John himself reflects on the importance of committed individuals in making the Fair Trade movement what it is today. At El Guabo in Ecuador, it was Jorge Ramirez who used his personal charm and charisma to inspire local banana farmers, leading to the first shipments of Fairtrade bananas to Europe. Up in Lancashire, Bruce Crowther and the local Oxfam group came up with the crazy idea of declaring Garstang the world’s first Fairtrade town, starting a local community movement that has now spread to over 1000 places in 22 different countries. In Sainsbury’s, Matt North was the banana buyer who found allies inside the business, not least with visionary chief executive Justin King, breaking entirely new ground for Fairtrade to convert their whole banana range. We could add to that list endlessly – behind each Fairtrade producer cooperative, each worker Joint Body, each business development, each Fairtrade town, school or faith campaign, are amazing inspirational individuals battling away.
If you haven’t yet read the book he edited, do so. It is thought provoking and compelling, and doesn’t shirk from the challenges the fair trade movement still faces. But it also ends on a note of hope. On a visit to Coobana cooperative, John was accompanied by the marketing director for the Coop, who later began buying their Fairtrade bananas in April 2010. That move offered farmers and workers more chance of wresting a little bit more control over their lives. “This is what fair trade can deliver,” says John. “Which all goes to show that the world can change for the better. Good things do happen.” They do, because good people make them happen. John was one of those people, and we will remember him.