Here’s an interesting claim from The Co-operative Group:
“The Co-operative has a long tradition of leading the way on fair trade and the launch of the first-ever Traidcraft endorsed fairly traded coffin range at our funeral homes is a natural, if unusual, progression.”
This first-ever status is endorsed by Traidcraft:
Larry Bush, Marketing Director, Traidcraft, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with The Co-operative in a brand new area of fair trade. We have a strong track record of working together with the Co-operative Group to launch fair trade firsts.’
The Co-op must have put out a press release about this (we can’t find it) because the story is everywhere. We pasted a sentence from the article into Google and it threw up 213 results, all of them, pretty much, newspapers. That’s a fantastic strike rate for a press release, a coup for the Co-op – and an insight into the quality of what we are urged to believe is bona fide news, not propaganda served up as news.
The Daily Telegraph version of the ‘story’ further tells us that:
‘Green funerals, where clients choose materials from sustainable sources and carbon emissions from the day are kept at a minimum, have grown by 20 per cent in recent years and are now worth more than £8 million.’
Goodness only knows where they sourced those figures. The article goes on to tell us that:
The bamboo and willow coffins are made in Bangladesh, where communities are given a fair price and money goes toward schools and health care.
Although wooden coffins approved as “rainforest friendly” have been fashionable for some time, these are the first coffins to be designated “fair trade” by official certifiers.
Traidcraft, a charity that promotes Fairtrade around the globe, said the coffins are the first to bring in money and fair working practices to a community in the developing world.
An early version of the story states that these coffins are being sold by the Co-operative Group ‘as part of its ethical strategy’. A more relevant and pressing ethical strategy, we’d suggest, would be a rededication to foundational values and the provision of affordable funerals to the poor and the disadvantaged.
Because we’ve been very busy here at the GFG Batesville-Shard we never got around to finding out what William Wainman at Ecoffins thinks about all this. After all, he has been selling fairtrade coffins for as long as anyone can remember. We assumed he might be cross. So we very grateful to those of you who sent in his riposte:
Ecoffins started manufacturing bamboo coffins in 1999 and is the only World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) manufacturer of coffins in the world. We were accredited as a member of the WFTO in 2007 following two rigorous independent assessments of our factory in China. This allows us to use the WFTO logo, providing a guarantee that we are Fair Trade suppliers. Additionally, all the companies which we buy products from outside the EU are also fully accredited members of the WFTO.
This is absolutely not the case with those coffins Co-operative Funeralcare will now be selling. Their manufacturers are not WFTO accredited and therefore will not be able to claim Fair Trade status for their bamboo or willow coffins. They should also not make claims that imply that they are the first to do this in the UK.
Copies of the WFTO assessors’ report on our own factory can be viewed at www.ecoffins.co.uk/fairtrade.aspx
Are we to suppose that Co-op Funeralcare was ignorant of the Ecoffins accreditation? Or that they simply didn’t let it get in the way of a good story?
As for those who credulously published the story, shame on your fact-checking.
Hat-tip to MJ, DB and JU