activism current affairs

The Observer Ethical Awards 2011

Last night was the Observer Ethical Awards ceremony, an opportunity to recognise campaigners, innovators and socially aware businesses. As usual, the list of nominees and winners is full of inspiring people and projects, and well worth a browse.

I wanted to mention a couple in a little more detail, as there are two winners this year that we’ve championed on the blog in the past. The People’s Supermarket won Local Retailer, for their entirely community-run supermarket. The London store invited local shoppers to become members of the supermarket, and keeps prices low by using volunteer staff. It’s a bold and risky idea, and I’m sure plenty of people told them it was ridiculous, so well done to them for their first year of business and for the award. (my earlier post)

I was also pleased to see that Greg Valerio won Global Campaigner. Greg has pioneered ethical gold through his jewellery company CRED, and the first Fairtrade certified gold went on sale on Valentine’s day. It’s been a long struggle in a complicated business, and it’s been great to see ethical gold break through this year.

Among several other projects, I really like Pavegen. They have developed a system for kinetic paving slabs, generating electricity from pedestrians as they go about their business. It’s these kind of projects that the future is made of.


  1. It’s a sad testement when British citizens have to “become members of the supermarket, and keeps prices low by using volunteer staff.” to afford to eat.

    As for “ethical gold”????? It’s nice to see people justify their own wants. What’s next ‘ethical asbestos’?

    1. Hey Jeff! There was a great article about ‘Fair Trade Coffee’…

      “Over a period of 10 years, our analysis shows that organic and organic-fair trade farmers have become poorer relative to conventional producers….

      …Because the fair trade associations – who in reality run a trade cartel – are intent on keeping the price of fair trade coffee up, they limit the supply of coffee that can be labelled as certified. To the certified farmer’s chagrin, most of his fair trade certified crop will end up being sold as uncertified conventional coffee. In this price-fixing game, the fair-trade farmer is the pawn and the joke is on the customer.”

      Sure hope no awards were given there! :0

      As has been said, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

      Maybe this ‘Ethical Gold” ploy is a way to make gold mine operators poorer, fairness. 😉

      1. I know Fairtrade is contestable. I’ve actually contested it myself on the blog, and have written in favour of a much smaller and fairer alternative called Equitrade. However, this study you reference deals with organic and faritrade-organic farmers, not fairtrade generally. It’s only in northern Nicaragua. And there was a major global collapse in the price of coffee during the period of the study. All told, it’s an informative piece of work, but not enough to write off an entire global movement.

        Unless of course you’re looking for an excuse to do so, as you are.

        1. Jeremy I admire your efforts. But as The Who once sang, ‘Same as the old boss’.

          Have you ever read ‘Animal Farm’?

          The only way to protect humans is to free them.

  2. So you’re against efforts to stop bribery, in favour of vulture funds, and now against ethical gold as well. It’s as if you’re on a crusade to make yourself look as cynical as is humanly possible.

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