Jan’s Fair Trade Comments at LinkedIn

2013-04-09 to Manel of FAIR TRADE USA
2013-03-31 to Adriana
2013-03-11 to Franka Viets’ fairtradeshop
2012-12-18 on Consumers attitudes
2012-08-03 Driving force for FT-sales
2011-03-20 Buying attitudes?
2011-03-20 FT gives change? to Ajay
2011-03-11 FT gives change? to Eve
2011-03-06 bad FT-shops
2011-02-11 Cancelling orders
2010-09-25 Labelling in developing countries
2010-09-07 Irregular orders
2010-09-06 Labelling
2010-06-07 “Do gooders” & Efficiency


Manel Modelo has right: coffeegrowers need reliable partners – but it is a bit naive to state that roasters could be. They are only intermediaries between coffee-growers and coffee-drinkers. But their main interest is not the quality or the service, but the maximum margin of pure-financial profit for themselves. If return on a product is too low … they simply will drop it.

We have to look at the consumers side: if enough people work together and form a “fair-customers-association” they can be reliable partners for the coffee-cooperatives. The inevitable consequence will be that the cost will be higher – so part of coffee-drinkers will stay with the lowest-price-supermarkets, with only shortsighted philosophies of financial self-interest.

The fairtrade-community will remain a niche-market, but has the possibilities to survive with their longterm inclusive views on humanity’s welbeing. Jan HC Velterop at dutch Molletje, 9 jan 2019

2019.i.03 Manel Modelo: “A roaster who wants to help secure the future of coffee must start by putting their money where their mouth is: reward producers with good prices for all their quality coffee and commit to long-term relationships with those quality-minded producers to ensure they have income stability.

Growers then know that roasters can be more than just clients, they can be true business partners. We have witnessed how coffee producers with long-term, fixed-priced contracts with roasters have been able to focus on producing quality coffee consistently, improving their quality of life and investing their profits to buy more land, thereby increasing their farm size – and income – to sustainable levels.” https://lnkd.in/e7JxtqX

2013-10-30 Jan’s comments on the FAIR TRACE TOOL

is a QR-code from the artisan who made the garment. It let you see what your purchase means for his/her better life.
Jan:  A nice concept that I’m looking at for the first time. I’m wondering that you didn’t receive comments up to now. With us in Europe its already a longgoing practice to add the personal name, and possibly picture, of the producer. Sometimes of the person her/him-self, more frequently of the producing group. Just to organize this by a kind of trademark is new for me.

We are engaged in lot of discussions about the use of trademarks. We have them by hundreds already, what makes them less effective. Also any wellorganized trademark brings costs, which are mostly relatively high. And we have to cope with the activities of big companies, who are using more or less “diluted marks” as a marketing tool. That implies that total cost must be limited, and the trademark will go out of use as soon as profit is not sufficiently high.

The negative effects are at the side of small retail worldshops. They are loosing terrain to the supermarkets. As since the start in 1970 we have not worked at developing a strong niche-market, where the ideals can remain undiluted and inspiring for the mainstream. Both approaches are necessary.
Little improvement of trade-conditions by mainstream companies can have good results for the mass of producers. The minimum standards of full FT will not be reached in the economic world of “profit for shareholders”. Therefore we have to stress fairness as the main motive, and not blur this feeling with discounts and financial premiums for the buyers.


Situation in The Netherlands is deteriorating on the moment. The old union of worldshops LVWW went to the court to claim the name “Wereldwinkel” for themselves. And exclude all other shops from using this name. Historically speaking this is nonsense. When we established the worldshops in 1970 – then as Foundation Wereldwinkel – we have expressly decided not to exclude other people. My historical statement has been exposed at the court by proponents and opponents of exclusivity. We are waiting the decision of the court on 2nd of May. It is clear, however, that wereldwinkel has become a general name, that can be claimed by nobody.

The question rises from where this issue has risen? In my opinion there have come new kind of people, to take over managerial positions in the FT-chain. Especially in the worldshop-union LVWW and in FTO, the main importer. People fed with ‘modern’ marketing concepts, aiming to grow in sales and profit. Without any consciousness that FT implies a totally new concept of economy. Serving the whole chain of stakeholders – eapecially producers – is impossible with the traditional concept of  maximizing profit for the owners.

2013-04-09 Jan to Manel of FAIR TRADE USA:

Manel, you have written a very analytical essay on fair trade. I was struck by you using the concept “pathological collaboration”. As we in The Netherlands are just in strong need of such concept, as I will explain in a following contribution. Although our local problem differs strongly from the FLO – FTUSA situation. Now I want to draw your attention to our psychological and philosophical climate of the time.

In 1969-1970 when we started the Worldshops here in NL, we had a mixture of feelings, depending on the psychological climate of postwar Europe. The first and second World Trade Conferences were held in 1964 and 1968. There were famines in India with millions of victims dying from hunger in 1966 and 1967. To which the dutch public reacted by collecting millions of guilders with tv-actions at a never-before-seen-scale. The mental climate of the student revolts of 1968 was “change”, by the youth starting to revolt after the rebuilding period for Europe since 1945, end of World War II.

Our main emotional points were: there is immense suffering, by injustice; we in Europe are part of the causes by our trade system; we have to change that; we can do by protesting against world trade practices. There were different practical approaches.
The first one: we have to protest and force politics to change trade conditions and system. The Worldshops choose this as main approach. With implication that the shop is a political action-centre, has not to look after profitability and efficiency. Our goal is: making ourselves superfluous, after we made trade fair. The nonsense of this idea of becoming superfluous wasn’t seen.
The second approach: we have to start with other trading by doing it ourselves. Setup a chain of shops who buy and sell at fair conditions. This approach failed within less than 10 years. Both approaches were relying on voluntary cooperation, on well-wishers, on financial subventions from local and national governments.

Only in the mid 80-ies came the idea of marks for Fair Trade. The first coffee with Max Havelaar-mark was offered to Prince Claus on a special tv-event on 15th of novembre 1988. All discussions about meaning and content of “fair” and of the conditions for producer-cooperatives started only during the last 2 decades. Many worldshops sell goods bought from individual poor families. Or bought by members during their holidays in developing countries.
There has been discussion about tea, as tea is hardly produced by small farmers. The decisive argument was then: the labourers on tea-plantations are also marginalized and deserve our support. So, we have to buy from plantations if it ameliorates their position. To my feeling the discussion about unorganized producers should be considered irrelevant.

2013-03-31 Jan: Adriana’s “farewell high priced conscious shopping”

might be working in the US. For the time being I do not see any useful possibility in The Netherlands, maybe even not in Europe. The worldshop-movement tried also to sell fair clothing, but it failed and stopped when losses became too high. Due to quality problems; due to incapacity of designers; due to very expensive distribution chain; due to the fact that mainstream clothing firms have no strong interest in fairness-as-goal-in-itself, but want to have their share in new buying trends without giving in on their profitmargins. The smallscale character of our branche does not yet have the capacity for low-priced fairness and sustainability.

2013-03-11 Jan to Franka Viets, who started her new Amsterdam fairtradeshop 2 days ago.

Congratulations Franka with your initiative. It is now >42 years that I – with my colleague Hans Beerends and our group of volunteers – started with the first Wereldwinkel Amsterdam in the CJV-building at Singel. You are at a more promising marketplace as we are in Enschede. We have double percentage of jobless youth and 10.000 less yearly family-income. That keeps our economic prospects low for Wereldwinkel “Molletje – Een Andere Wereld”. Maybe you will have more people passing by, so keep up with renewing your window to attract them. And tell us on this forum your new experiences. Good luck, Jan H.C.Velterop, cofounder of WW Amsterdam, national union LVWW, and WW Molletje at Enschede.

2012-12-18 Jan: Dear Friends, there is a distinctly different approach

if you look at consumers attitudes. The most popular coffee in NL is DE Aroma red. You have it as 250grams for ±11 euro per kg, as 500g at ±10 euro. But since the market-introduction of the Senseo-machine consumers bought it and pay 7.42 for 18 pads at 125g, i.e. nearly 60 euro/kg! Clear evidence that the market is not automatically driving down the prices.

The big roasters and coffee-firms are just after maximizing their margin of profit. Their image with the general public is one of the most important assets and therefore they are masters in “fair-washing” and “greenwashing”. They try to reach this at lowest costs and to not intend fairness as a goal by itself. That is just the dream of “weltfremd” do-gooders. Thus the number of fair products in their assortment will be as low as possible to keep their image working.

The idealistic tendency among worldshoppers to change the whole trade-chain into fairness creates the belief that we have to give in to reach the masses of wellwishing customers. However, that type of humans does not exist in big numbers. We have to accept that we are a minority and our right-of-existence is to keep up our standards. And to find out how to cope with the needs of our suppliers, the small farmers and small handicrafts makers, that are our people.

2012-08-03 Jan on: Driving force for FT-sales

Wonderful growth of FT on world scale. Glad to see, as we did hope in 1969-1971, when founding the dutch World Shops. What drive is behind? Certainly many more motives as just promoting being fair. The dutch company Drie Mollen bought the coffee division of the Fair Trade Original-company.
A worker asked: what time you will need to become 100% fair? Disappointing answer: we want the FT-coffee limited to 10% of our sales. Because it implies higher costs. I’m very glad with worldwide FT-results. The limiting factors will always be there, to guarantee that our efforts never will be superfluous and ending.

2011-03-20. Jan commenting on Ajay Katyal from New Delhi:

Are all these Fairtrade labels actually bringing change in the buying patterns of consumers?

Ajay, you are bringing a discussion on a very vital point, that deserves special attention. I commented already on attitudes in the “Should supermarkets ..”-discussion. During my 40 years of involvement, my (limited of course) experience is: there is very little effect on consumers attitudes.

Since 1983 I’m serving my own circle of customers. Many of the friends who participated as volunteers in the nineties have left. For most customers reality is: we see them only during some years. They did not die, or move out of the city. There psychological interest waned, they got other impulses, and then the extra “cost” of time etc is too much.

The loyal people who have stayed during so long years are qualified by others as: “idealists”. Connected with the emotional reward of “ethical buying” Max Havelaar-coffee is the feeling: by that we have done our best, we did something “for the good purpose”. That motive is most frequently given by new customers. The motive of justice to the producer is very rare. I hope your request will yield some research.

2011-03-11. Jan commenting on Eve Broadis of Scotland and Juan Andres Santelices from Edinburgh, thinking: FT will bring real change.

I am very glad with all this positive comments. Especially Eve’s quotation and Juan Andres’ reaction are giving a broad perspective. They show hope in the consumers demanding real change. And businesses changing their use of FT as marketing tool to become sincere fairtrade businesses. All supported by FLO, and the worldwide FT movements. My question is: what has it to do with reality?

It should be clear that consumers’ actions are driven by: financial profit, easy to reach, cheap parking, comfortable and pleasant places to be, profitable buying etc. As soon as a shop becomes less attractive – e.g. because of new shoppingcenter being opened – it starts losing customers. Loyalty to the ethical principles of that shop does not count at all. Here in Enschede we lost customers, because our shop does not look prestigious enough. Even people say: of course you don’t go to worldshops, they are too common, that is for other kind of people.

From the experiences I’ve seen in the movement since 1969 the increased show-off for consumers is not what we are able to offer. The moral value of a FT-mark or ecological mark has a financial equivalent of 10% extra-cost. In general people are not willing to pay more for the ethical value. Standard expression in our country for prices-above-the-minimum is: “you are thief of your own purse”. No one shows the concern “not to be a thief of other persons purse”.

The economy of keeping up a shop in The Netherlands makes a rough profit of about 30-35% of selling prices necessary. Supermarkets run at average rates between 16 and 25%. They have the economic profit of near to 100% effectivity of the personnel. They can finance the automation of buying, selling, storing and bookkeeping. They can use personnel with low degree of knowledge and experience.

My conclusion is, we worldshop-people are – by our principles – a niche-market and will never become mainstream. Not to say that I am pessimistic. My life is not meaningless, because I didn’t save the world. I have stopped these ideals, I have contributed to the life of some thousands of people, that’s enough.

2011-03-06. Jan answering to Eve Broadis of Scotland, thinking:

FT-shops are, maybe, better as commercial enterprises.
Hallo, Eve is fully wright saying she is “realistic”, but she is still too optimistic. Every week I see several announcements that show: “fair trade” is just only a marketing instrument for profit.

Making profit, protecting profit and market share, without any thought about “gaining by exchange by all involved people”. The greed for profit to management and shareholders only is creeping into our businesses.

Example: our NL “Fair Trade Original”. Management rewards and salaries are highly increased. Fees for being accepted as importers for worldshops are extremely high. Pressure on the shops is increasing, so that already a number of them have finished their membership. Discussions are going about an “alternative worldshop organisation”.

One of the main causes is the concept of the aims of a company. Not to fulfil a task in society, with reasonable profit for all concerned parties. But only: profitmaking for oneself – and that with very restricted shortterm-views.
My personal aim has become limited: being part of effective and efficient social action in my restricted surroundings.

Jan likes the discussion on “Salary and social enterprise: what should entrepreneurs get paid?”.
How much pay should you take out of your business? And what is the ideal salary for a social enterpreneur? Claudia Cahalane samples salaries.

2011-02-11. Jan reacting to: Is it fair that a FT-company in Europe cancell orders without paying compensation?

I want to add something that to my idea is being overlooked. Other groups and companies, who are really sincere FTraders, should try to form a group to tackle such problems, that will occur more in the near future.

Food items are perishable, if a group exist that is prepared to take over the contract, the damage to producer groups can be minimised. May be Scotland can find Tear Craft or others willing to form a combination where every participant puts a garantee for 5% or up to 35% – each according to capacity – the container can be divided by this reseller-group.

We at “Molletje – Een Andere Wereld” are just a local shop in one of the poorer cities of The Netherlands, with sales limited below 150.000 euro. But we have done so several times – of course for relatively small quantities.

You make a loss, but in Europe we are able to bare some losses better than our producers in grassroot-organisations. So let the UK-people start discussions to be prepared for help in the next case.

2010-09-25. Jan commenting: Should we promote and support the development of Fairtrade labelling systems in the developing countries? What do you think?

I want to return to the issue of certification. What we see here in The Netherlands is: being “fair”, “green”, “eco”, “devoted to CSR or in dutch MVO” are becoming popular advertising banners. All banking and industrial firms show themselves being the best ethically and morally motivated companies. They “proof” it with recognised trade marks.

These are so different and varied that “normal average customers” are loosing grip on the meaning of them. The best illustration is in coffee, where DE Douwe Egberts, market-leader, is telling to be “devoted to small farmer-producers”.

While they refuse to pay more as the world marketprice. Even when these is far below the minimumcost of producing. The imperfection and limitations of common economic thinking – excluding all externalized costs – are not taken into consideration. That leads automatically to slavery.

Jan Vossen is right that we should work to improving conditions for the bulk of producers. To that goal we have to use economic policy, government involvement, international treaties and laws. It is our destiny as Fair Traders to accept being a niche-market. But acting in favor of our producer-groups. Building trust with our customers, who will accept our “lacking trademarks” when seeing our transparancy and sincerity.

2010-09-07. Maria Alaniz: “When, how do people reach a revenu generation esteemed to provide justice freedom & development?”

An artisan needs to earn enough to support his or her family fifty-two weeks a year.
Producers are NOT greedy, we are very pleased to share our creatifity and industry, a modest income fifty-two weeks a year is what lets a jewelry maker be successful.

If the customers insist on providing irregular production orders often specified as Urgent this, in itself, makes it impossible for the craftspeople to be successful, because they will only be a bouncing rubber ball in the ball game of the commercial business people.

Jan responding to Maria Alaniz. Maria Alaniz’ cry is fully justified. It is also here very difficult for independent importers and wholesalers. They have to pay also their 1.000 euro to be accepted as suppliers for worldshops. At the start of the Worldshop Movement in 1969-1970 in NL we wanted to be welcoming newcomers and being accessible. This attitude dwindled away in the 80- and 90-ties.

As local shop, with sales below 150.000, we cannot import volumes. Neighbouring shops refused any type of cooperation. We buy important part from individual mini-importers, who have good relations with producerfamilies.

Product improvement by giving comments always had high priority. Our “lecturing” reaches the families by these face-to-face-relations, but reaching their coworkers in their villages is hardly possible. And we do not have the means to empower them to more coöperative effort.

Remarkable effect for us: our assortment on 150m2 is by far the largest of the whole country. And also the most original, as can easily be seen on our molletje.nl website.

Our customers frequently comment: “you are a new kind of worldshop. All other worldshops that we have seen are exactly the same. If you see one, you saw them all”, adding having seen over 50!

In this way we try to survive. We believe in smallscale “fairtrade”, seeing the “fair- and green-washing” by common companies growing. Our trademark is our sincerety, simple lifestyle, social concern, stressing the interests of producers, and informing the people to create concern and involvement. We did not find that with the worldshops, populated by many voluntary dogooders.

2010-09-06. Jan answering: Should we promote and support the development of Fairtrade labelling systems in the developing countries? What do you think?

No, labelling organisations are a system of control, that relies on bureaucratic checks with great negative side-effects. In NL worldshops are refusing to sell e.g. the Mission-calendars of catholic-protestant organisations. With the argument: your organisation is not certified. But selling 10.000 calendars at 8.00 euro cannot bring up certification cost of 1.000 euro. The same for a small importer of zimbabwean stone art.

These people work at extreme low overheadcosts, but have barely a “normal” money-income. Their strength is their inner devotion to our common goals: improving the living conditions of the small producers. We have to accept that the profit of labelling is going more and more to big companies. Our strength lies in sincerety and mutual trust, here in the North as well as in the South.

2010-06-27. Jan commenting on “the conflict between the basic philosophies and the capability to deal with mainstream brand management”

I like the statement too. It reflects my experiences from the last 40 years. Meeting hundreds of people, volunteering in World Shops, I found very strong limitations for them to become really involved. Driving motivation for most of them was – and is – wanting to “doing some good to a really poor person”. By that collecting “good deeds” wich contribute to one’s selfesteem. Therefore stressing being volunteers.

Rarely I met persons who looked at “the real and immediate profit for the poor” as the principal argument. Also the criteria effectiveness and efficiency were not part of the motivation and did not show up in discussions. At this moment we are trying to increase the involvement and awareness of our co-workers to guarantee the future of our shop.