Fairtrade? It’s time for Cleartrade

Cadbury is one of Britain’s best-loved brands. It was one of the leading lights in terms of ethical business practises in Victorian Britain, alongside brands such as Rowntree, Clarks the shoemaker and Wedgewood pottery. A brand which took it’s social and cultural responsibilities very seriously, alongside it’s economic ones.

However, today sees it be suggested by an Independent article that the creation of a community by Cadbury at Bournville, which was built for it’s Victorian workforce, may well have been the high point in terms of social good done by the brand. As the Cadbury ownership has moved further into a singularly profit-driven motivation, the brand seems to be getting further away from its social causes and ideology.

In a rejection of their social cause, Cadbury have announced that they will no longer be using Fairtrade cocoa beans and will introduce their own ‘Cocoa Life’ scheme. The problem is that this does not have the same purchasing price rules as Fairtrade and is not subject to external regulation. Shockingly, Cadbury have also announced that they will however continue to use the Fairtrade logo on their packaging, as a ‘partner’.

This move calls two brands into question.


Firstly, the Cadbury brand has moved so far away from it’s social good motivations that it really can’t be compared to the Victorian era brand at all. For a brand, value is not simply economic but also social. In allowing decisions to be forced by a profit-motive, the very value of the brand Cadbury is being eroded.

However, it is the second brand in this story which is more in danger of losing it’s value. The Fairtrade logo being used on packaging was a kitemark, a seal of approval, a symbol of which we knew the meaning – fair trade. If Cadbury are to use this logo yet not use Fairtrade cocoa in their product, the whole value of the symbol and the brand is diminshed. Diminished to a point where it is essentially meaningless.


Brand works through meaning. If the meaning is eroded, or muddied, then the brand is worthless.

Cadbury have every right to make whatever decision they feel is best for their business. In fact, as a business with shareholders they are beholden to maximising the profit for shareholders first and foremost. If that means they lose even more of the ideology and value of the brand, but they feel this will have little impact on sales (and therefore profit), then they will do it.

But if Fairtrade to allow Cadbury to still use their logo on packaging, and the goods don’t use Fairtrade ingredients, then it will be the Fairtrade brand that will suffer most. People are confused with messages and meaning – obfuscation should not be encouraged by a brand such as Fairtrade.

People need to know what they are buying, and supporting. Maybe it is time for more transparency, or Cleartrade.


Image © Birmingham Mail

Further reading:
Fearn, H. (2016) In a final betrayal of the Cadbury brand, kraft has quietly abandoned its promise to stick with Fairtrade. (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
Thomas, D. (2016) Is Cadbury’s move the end for Fairtrade? (Accessed: 1 December 2016).



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