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Fair prices for shea

Fairtrade Foundation calls on cosmetics companies to invest in women shea entrepreneurs for a fairer beauty industry 
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Silue Matine

Main image: Silue Matine,, shea nut producer and member of the WOBIN Fairtrade Cooperative in Côte d’Ivoire. Photo credit Makke Hussein

The Fairtrade Foundation has kicked off a campaign inviting the cosmetics industry to invest in and work alongside West Africa’s pioneering women shea entrepreneurs, who the charities says are ‘paving the way to a fairer, more ethical beauty industry’.

Fairtrade has seen a surge in its range of beauty and cosmetics products in recent years, with 150 products available in 2022, compared with 250 in 2023.

It now wants UK businesses to invest in four Fairtrade-certified shea producer groups in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire, plus an additional six co-operatives in Ghana set to gain certification this year.

Natural product sales on the rise

The campaign is asking shoppers to ‘tag a beauty brand’ via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, to show the strength of consumer demand for sustainably made shea-containing products, such as body butters, hand creams, lip salves, shampoos, conditioners, bars of soap, toilet papers, washing-up liquids and wet wipes.

The significant increase in the number of producer groups cultivating certified shea this year will enable a consistent, sustainable supply of Fairtrade shea butter and nuts to the sector, where demand for meaningful and ethical beauty products continues to increase.

The global market value for natural cosmetics and personal care is expected to increase from 37 billion dollars in 2022 to roughly 59 billion dollars in 2031.

Growth in Fairtrade shea already indicates demand; volumes of shea licensed by the Fairtrade Foundation have more than doubled over the last two years.

‘At Fairtrade, we believe beauty products shouldn’t cost the earth or compromise human rights. Consumers think this too. Research shows that shoppers are actively exploring the origin of the ingredients in their beauty products and are particularly concerned with ethical and environmental credentials.  

‘Shoppers want transparency and brands that make a difference, yet the wider beauty industry still isn’t talking enough about the people and stories behind the ingredients in products – including shea.  That’s why we’re rapidly expanding our work in the beauty sector and are excited to launch this shea campaign to drive deeper change for the women behind this popular ingredient.’

Partnerships director at the Fairtrade Foundation

Improving supply chains

Fairtrade’s campaign comes ahead of a unique 60-minute round-table learning experience event, taking place on 13 June.

At the event, businesses will have an opportunity to find out more about Fairtrade shea butter, with speakers including health and beauty editor Lisa Oxenham and Linda Lariba Atibilla, a shea butter entrepreneur and President of Hope Givers Shea Butter Cooperative in Ghana.

Fairtrade beauty products offer an additional market opportunity for farmers who are already producing ingredients such as butters, nuts and oils, giving them access to new markets.

For buyers, establishing direct links with certified women groups makes supply chains more efficient.

‘Thanks to trust in the FAIRTRADE Mark (79%, Kantar Profiles Q1 2023) , brands who back Fairtrade can reassure their customers that the shea butter in their products is a sustainably sourced, natural ingredient. As new shea butter co-operatives join Fairtrade and supply increases, shea producers are keen to partner with more beauty businesses, through Fairtrade.

‘When you choose Fairtrade shea, you don’t just strengthen your brand and sustainability credentials, but you make a real difference in the lives of the women who produce it. It doesn’t just make commercial sense: it’s also the right thing to do.’

Partnerships director at the Fairtrade Foundation

Why to source Fairtrade

When businesses source Fairtrade artisanal shea butter directly from women entrepreneurs who have processed it themselves, it keeps the added value in the women’s hands.  

As well as directly supporting growers, investment into Fairtrade shea by businesses will also benefit Fairtrade’s producer network, Fairtrade Africa, which provides local support to growers – a feature that sets Fairtrade apart from other certifications.

Fairtrade Africa has already provided the six Ghanaian shea co-ops with training and advice to help them reach the Fairtrade Standards.

This includes business and finance management and improvements to supply, facilities, quality and business capacity.

Time to invest in Fairtrade shea

In 2023, the total expected supply of Fairtrade shea from the six groups in Ghana is estimated to reach thousands of metric tonnes, making now the ideal time for brands to invest in Fairtrade shea.

By sourcing shea butter on Fairtrade terms, brands can ensure shea producers earn a fairer price for their product, in line with the Fairtrade Standards.

Signing up to partner with Fairtrade means businesses can trace Fairtrade purchases from end to end and guarantee that the Fairtrade Price and Premium has been paid.

Fair prices for female shea producers

For women shea producers, prices fluctuate heavily and it’s often hard for them to guarantee a fair price and forecast sales for the months ahead.

They can use the extra Fairtrade Premium they receive to support their communities to thrive by investing in areas such as education or forest-friendly interventions to support the sustainability of wild shea trees.

In 2021, Fairtrade launched a partnership with the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) and the Waterloo Foundation to support women-led shea co-ops (around 3,400 producers) in Ghana to unlock Fairtrade shea market and community development opportunities.

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