Pioneers Post
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  • user warning: UPDATE command denied to user '408302_semagad'@'10.187.244.203' for table 'cache_filter' query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p>Anne MacCaig is an absolutely disarming interviewee from the off, pleasant and interested. And not all social enterprise leaders are.</p>\n<p>She is also very measured in manner and tone, but this doesn\'t mean she wants to keep quiet about her plans for one of the country\'s leading social enterprises.</p>\n<p>Since taking over the CEO post at fair trade hot drinks company Cafédirect in March 2008, the new boss has introduced new branding, closer links to producers and is speaking out against unscrupulous companies who want to lower the minimum price paid to fair trade farmers. She has agreed to meet me for lunch at the River Terrace Café, part of London\'s Somerset House on the Embankment.</p>\n<p>MacCaig has chosen it as a sunny location which stocks Cafédirect\'s drinks. Rain is threatening a little, however, so we perch ourselves under the canopied section of the restaurant and sip on some soft drinks.</p>\n<p>My guest\'s empathetic manner makes it easy to see her straightaway as a champion of farmers\' rights in Africa, Latin America and Asia. She takes every opportunity during our conversation to talk about bringing justice for them through \'trade not aid\' - the subject of her thesis while studying economics at Birmingham University.</p>\n<p>An interest in ethical issues has been with her since her early school days and, while she\'s worked for several companies which would definitely not be seen as ethical, marketing products that would not be seen as ethical, her move to Cafédirect felt natural, she explains.</p>\n<p>\'When I\'ve worked in business and economics roles, I\'ve always been driven to work in environmental change programmes within those organisations. It feels fantastic to now be working for a company which is hardwired towards social and environmental goals as well as financial ones. It feels like I\'ve been collecting pieces along the way for this job.\'</p>\n<p>Most recently, as a marketing director at Ribena (part of GlaxoSmithKline), MacCaig worked with blackcurrant farmers on biodiversity. She is now focused on ensuring Cafédirect bears plenty of fruit under her leadership.</p>\n<p>\'It\'s important that we continue to be pioneering and I\'m very proud of what we\'ve done over the last year. Penny [Newman, her predecessor] did an amazing job at building Cafédirect and she is a tough act to follow. But I think where we are now is a different phase of Cafédirect\'s life. It\'s a new era.</p>\n<p>\'In the last year we\'ve actually placed growers even more at the heart of the organisation. We\'re ensuring they are even more a part of the decision making,\' she says.</p>\n<p>Connecting with farmers, and connecting consumers to farmers, is a key goal of McCaig\'s. As part of this, branding has been introduced that features the growers and their tools, rather than just logos. And, the company is in the process of creating internet links between its farmers (of which there are currently 260,000, but the ambition is to double that over the next five years) and consumers in the UK.</p>\n<p>Other objectives include introducing more products and expanding markets in producers\' home countries and in tourist destinations in those areas, as well as to continue growing sales of Cafédirect hot drinks in cafés and universities.</p>\n<p>So, I ask, how does it feel to be a part of the social enterprise sector?</p>\n<p>MacCaig is a little wary of the label.</p>\n<p>\'One of the things Cafédirect has been great at doing is influencing other large organisations and it\'s important that those large organisations don\'t see us as some sort of niche activity. I think it\'s important that social enterprise plays a greater and greater role in how businesses operate in general,\' explains MacCaig.</p>\n<p>Cafédirect has always wanted to influence the big guys to take on some of its ethical ways of working, and in the last year or two we have seen a rush of mainstream companies converting own brands or some of their lines to fair trade.</p>\n<p>It\'s not the same, of course, as what Cafédirect does - that is, a lot of work with farmers, including up to two years initially to bring them up to fair trade standard, rather than just picking the name of a fair trade supplier from a register as many companies who use these labels do. But there is another issue - the pressure from big players to drive down the minimum price paid to fair trade farmers.</p>\n<p>I\'m very interested in this, so while we sample a fresh-looking Greek salad (for my guest) and some wholesome lentil soup (for myself) I encourage her to chew the issue over a little with me.</p>\n<p>\'Well, it is very positive that supermarkets\' own labels are moving into fair trade,\' she starts.</p>\n<p>\'It\'s terribly important that people are paying the minimum price, but that\'s just a start. It\'s important that the way people are coming into fair trade is right for the long-term benefit of the growers and I think there are important questions that have to be asked in that area.\'</p>\n<p>Like what, I ask? MacCaig explains that growing market volume is not enough if retailers are constantly trying to drive down the minimum price paid to farmers. It could happen that the minimum price falls as a result of pressure from big companies at a time when expenses for farmers are going up.</p>\n<p>\'The average price needs to continue to rise and must be responsive to the cost of production, which is very often not taken into account. There have to be the right checks and balances to ensure that, as large producers come into the remit, their power - and this is all about power - is managed.\'</p>\n<p>MacCaig says that Cafédirect, which is five per cent owned by its growers, will fight for an absolute guarantee that smallholders\' cost of production and acceptable standard of living premiums are being maintained.</p>\n<p>The price for fair trade is set by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation through consultation with stakeholders and experts. It\'s a huge issue. And the effect of having more players in the market also means that Cafédirect\'s own sales dropped by five per cent last year. This was against a 40 per cent overall rise in the sale of Fairtrade Foundation stamped products.</p>\n<p>But there is plenty to be happy about. Sales in cafés and hotels rose by 21 per cent last year, at the time of writing the share price is a strong £1 and the company won eight gold Great Taste Awards at the Guild of Fine Food awards last year - tell that to people who think the taste of fair trade is a bit second rate.</p>\n<p>As we finish our lunch with an espresso and a mint tea, it\'s easy to see that Cafédirect\'s main goal when it began life 18 years ago - a redistribution of power in the supply chain - is still being chased.</p>\n<p>\'We want to ensure that the role we\'ve played to make the UK the strongest fair trade nation in the whole world continues to the long-term benefit of producers,\' says MacCaig.</p>\n<p>Let\'s hope the new boss will continue to apply pressure in all the right places. Cafédirect has the power to keep challenging to see more changes on a global scale - something that many social enterprises still only dream about.</p>\n', created = 1469870093, expire = 1469956493, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '1:1d204cae5b14d820ac93c0cbd7d16eea' in /mnt/stor2-wc1-dfw1/408302/www.socialenterpriselive.com/web/content/includes/cache.inc on line 109.
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Lunch With... Anne MacCaig

30 October 2009

A year and a half into her job as CEO of Cafédirect, Ribena's former marketing director is battling moves by companies on the fairtrade bandwagon to push down prices paid to farmers. She met Claudia Cahalane for a mission-filled Greek salad.

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