Last year I had the privilege of travelling to Zambia with Traidcraft to meet people living in the shadow of one of Africa’s largest copper smelting plants. I say privilege because it was an amazing experience. But it was also a terrible one.
Acidic gas released by the smelting plant regularly blows over the small brick houses, the closest of which are just a few hundred metres from the plant. Hardly anything will grow and even the iron roofs are corroded by constant pollution. Just think what that is doing to the people. The plant is owned by a huge multinational company which is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
People living around the plant are desperate, yet they have no-where to turn.
Seeing what is happening in countries like Zambia, where some irresponsible British companies are riding roughshod over local people, makes me angry. It makes me angry that people who are basically just like me – wanting to make a living, look after their families, have a bit put by for a rainy day and something to look forward to for their children and grandchildren – these people are being exploited and abused by companies whose profits pour back into my country. It’s wrong and it needs to be stopped.
And it makes me angry because it doesn’t have to be like this. Our government could make some relatively simple changes to update the law so that big companies could be prosecuted for failing to prevent this kind of abuse. And that would provide a strong incentive to put their house in order.
That’s why this week Traidcraft is launching ‘Justice Matters’, our summer campaign, during which we’ll be shouting loud and clear about why justice matters to us – and how it affects the way we do business.
Working for Traidcraft as a Campaigns Manager, I am lucky to be in a position to see these issues and do something about them. But nothing that Traidcraft does would make any difference at all without the support and commitment of fair traders, customers, campaigners, supporters and blog-readers. You are the people who make Traidcraft’s work a reality and you are the people who will make Justice Matters a success.
We’re aiming to collect 25,000 names on a petition which we will present to the government later in the year. It will show them that people really do care about what goes on in other parts of the world, that we want British businesses to be accountable for their actions, and that we think justice matters.
Together we can make a difference.