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Unfair Trade: The shocking truth behind 'ethical' business [Kindle Edition]

Conor Woodman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Many of our favourite brands now openly espouse 'ethical' credentials, so how is it that they can import billions of pounds' worth of goods from the developing world every year while leaving the people who produce them barely scraping a living? Are they being cynically opportunistic? Or is it that global commerce will always be incompatible with the eradication of poverty? And, if so, are charity and fair trade initiatives the only way forward?

In Unfair Trade Conor Woodman travels the world - from Nicaragua to the Congo and from Laos to Afghanistan - to establish the truth. In the course of his journeys he uncovers some truly shocking stories about the way big business operates, but he also sees a way forward that could reconcile the apparently irreconcilable.

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Review

Conor Woodman's Unfair Trade is proof that economics can be both vivid and accessible. By rootling through the developing world's sweatshops, plantations and mines he explores whether Big Business can also be Ethical Business. Read this book and you will never look at the goods in a high street shop window in quite the same way --Tim Butcher

Conor Woodman takes the dismal out of the dismal science. He's written an alternative travel guide to the global economy --Liam Halligan, Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

From fair trade to unfair trade: why the world's poor continue to lose out in the global market - and what can be done about it.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 479 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (23 Feb. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0077D8P8W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #440,335 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Conor Woodman is an economist, author and presenter with a fresh, relevant take on how changes in the wider world affect us all. His passion is to unravel economic issues in an accessible way.

His first book Around The World in 80 Trades - The Adventure Capitalist and accompanying four-part television series for Channel 4 tell the story of how he left his job in the City, sold his London flat and embarked on a round-the-world trading adventure. Travelling through four continents over five months, he turned his hand to making a profit out of everything from camels in Sudan to inflatable surfboards in Mexico, to discover how real people make real money in real markets.

Conor's new book Unfair Trade deals with how ordinary people around the world survive at the bottom of the supply chain. By living alongside miners, farmers, factory workers and fishermen from Africa to Asia to Central America, Conor tells the stories of the real people on whom the global economy depends.

Conor is an adept public speaker at corporate events and after dinner speeches, and has spoken about his experiences at Hay-on-Wye and Edinburgh literary festivals. Conor has written for the Independent, Conde Nast Traveller and Wanderlust and is a contributor to the BBC's From Our Own Correspondent.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating exploration of fair trade 19 May 2011
Format:Paperback
Why can't the big businesses from whom we buy our food, gadgets, clothes and other stuff, do more to ensure that the people who farm it, fish it, assemble it or mine it work in safe conditions or get paid a sufficient sum to ensure that they aren't forced to live their lives on the edge of existence? That is a question which Conor Woodman poses at the start of this book.

The book goes on to describe the author's investigations in Nicaragua (unsafe diving for lobster), the UK (the ethical marketplace), China (sweat shops), Laos (rubber plantations), Congo (mines), Afghanistan (poppy cultivation), Tanzania (tea) and Côte d'Ivoire (cotton). The author is an economist, and so he does not just take as gospel the words of the fair trade lobbyists; in fact he takes the Fairtrade organisation to task over an inaccurate story on their website and he discusses his concerns over how Fairtrade certification has become commercialised.

However, it seems to me that the author has failed to display a similar degree of scepticism in relation to all of the "facts" which he encountered in writing the book. For example, he says that Congo "is the fifth largest producer of cassiterite (tin oxide) in the world. The multibillion-dollar global electronics trade would be virtually unthinkable without it." While Wikipedia confirms that Congo was fifth largest tin producer in 2006, its share is less than 5% of the world's supplies, suggesting that the electronics trade could quite easily survive without it if tin from Congo could be detected and blocked.

In the last chapter, the author is fulsome in his praise of Olam International, a company which buys cotton from farmers in Côte d'Ivoire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Eye-Opener 11 Feb. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Read this book as I am currently studying an environment & economic course at University, and the whole concept of corporate social responsibility interests me a lot. To start off, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style - the author tells about his experiences in personally visiting areas around the world. He does so extremely well and is able to capture his images in a really good way. I finished the book with a very sceptic view on labels such as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and all other "Organic" product labels. It is quite shocking how we as consumers are often morally convinced that by buying these labels we are doing a good deed, and yet we know so little about what is really going on behind the scenes. Excellent book, I would definitely recommend everyone to read it! :)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Hand Home Truths About International Trade 16 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book to be an easy rewarding read. The author has travelled to a handful of representative poor / developing countries and successfully managed to find and convey some first hand snippets of their reality back to my comfortable existence.

This book would be very accessible for the non-economist reader, as it confines itself to mostly just reporting reality, and does not veer into the theories and complex economic debates surrounding the subject. This could be seen as a weakness, but my opinion is that there are other books for the theory, and this provides a valuable complement to a mixed reading diet.

Most of the issues it raised did not surprise me, but just confirmed my worst views about the inequalities of the world trading system. However there were some interesting points which are typical of the anomalies and counter intuitive things you find when you actually visit a place rather than theorise from a distance. For example I did not know that for many western companies that show the "fair trade" label on their products, the cost to them is presently small, because the world price for the commodity in question is currently higher than the floor price set by the fair trade organisation. Also he explains that for Afghan farmers, it can prove easier to sell their produce of poppies (narcotics) than other produce because the produce from poppies is collected from them rather than them having to pay bribes on the way to the local market with other goods. I also found it interesting to know some first hand trivia, like how much Chinese workers actually earn, and how many hours they work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Free Trade 13 May 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very revealing book. Have come to the conclusion that the people in poor countries would be better off with free trade because Fair Trade is anything but. I was ever suspicious of so called fair trade and it's upmarket prices. Rarely bought anything labeled fair trade and after reading this book certainly won't. Local produce for me when ever possible.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Read 29 July 2011
By CWW
Format:Paperback
'Unfair Trade' might be the most important book you ever read. Seriously.

If you have even the slightest concern about the provenance of the stuff you buy, or have ever decided to purchase so called `fair trade' goods over another choice, this is essential reading.

Conor Woodman takes to task the assumption that by buying "ethical" goods we are making a positive contribution to the lives of people in the developing world. As the book's title suggests, this is revealed as not always being the case. Whether it's food, electronics, minerals or rubber, no sector or product is safe from the scrutiny of Woodman's beady eye.

And no long-distance commentator is this. Experiences shared with Nicaraguan lobster divers and Congolese miners, in particular, had me wincing at what their daily lives involve, and Woodman's determination to live it himself gives this book immense credibility.

The real boon of this book, however, is that it doesn't just question the comfortable position taken by armchair liberals such as myself but it offers examples of how sustainable, ethical trade can succeed. Woodman has found companies that really make a difference to the communities they work with and you won't find a Fair Trade label in sight.

An fascinating book that deserves to be at the top of the bestseller lists.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, things are not always as they seem!
Great book, opens your eyes to the realisty of big business and their not so ethical practices! It has helped me with a project about how fair Fair Trade is! Read more
Published 28 days ago by Adam Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars Anoher great Woodman
Woodman's genre is new and individual and this one is another success - does not disappoint. Should appeal to adventurers, travellers, economists etc
Published 18 months ago by Paul Bach
3.0 out of 5 stars How fair is "fair" trade really?
If you've ever picked up an ethically labeled product at your local supermarket you probably did so for two reasons - you like the taste of the product and you feel reassured that... Read more
Published on 1 April 2012 by BLehner
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Not only interesting, but entertaining as well
Very good book. I'd seen Conor's show (50 Trades) on TV and really like what he's about. I thought I'd give this book a try and ended up reading it all in just two days. Read more
Published on 17 July 2011 by b i p
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible and intriguing read
I really enjoyed reading this book. The author gives some excellent illustrations of the sometimes ineffectual and sometimes downright perverse effects of some of the programmes... Read more
Published on 1 July 2011 by AJK
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating investigation into "ethical" practices
Accessible account of big business practices in developing nations. Insightful anecdotes and thought-provoking information. Read more
Published on 19 May 2011 by Will Bassett
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