27 March 2003 | David Arminas
London's mayor has called on purchasers in the capital's organisations and boroughs to buy food and drink products bearing the Fairtrade marque.
It is part of Ken Livingstone's drive to improve London's corporate social responsibility (CSR) by becoming a Fairtrade City, an initiative set up by the Fairtrade Foundation.
He told SM: "It is not like the days of the Greater London Council when we were the bulk purchaser for local government.
"But Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police, London boroughs and other big organisations have substantial purchasing budgets and I will be trying to persuade them to use Fairtrade products."
Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said Fairtrade products were not necessarily priced higher than major brands, but buying them meant more money went to the producers in underdeveloped countries.
To be a Fairtrade City, the Greater London Authority's 33 boroughs must offer Fairtrade products such as coffee, tea and snacks at their meetings.
The boroughs must also promote Fairtrade products to local organisations, as well as asking retailers to stock the products.
So far 17 UK cities and towns, including Croydon and Nottingham, have met the criteria.
Eddy Taylor, environment and sustainability manager at Croydon, said the payback was a more motivated staff and a good corporate image in the community.
"There was also a lot of pressure from business people, faith groups and teachers to move in this direction," he said.
Peter Howarth, an adviser at local government advisory body the Improvement and Development Agency, cautioned purchasers to remain faithful to best-value analysis when considering buying these products.
"Using procurement to support corporate social responsibility is a thorny issue and purchasers must ensure they get best value for the public."
Howarth, chairman of CIPS's local authority committee, said purchasers seeking CSR used the duty rule of well-being, which allowed decisions to be based on community benefits.
"But I am not too sure the duty rule applies in this Fairtrade situation," he said.
There are 16 Fairtrade organisations in 16 countries, which share common criteria for designating products as Fairtrade.