Shared Earth

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Shared Earth's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Shared Earth is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Managing Director JeremyPiercy
Rainbow ceramics from
Shared Earth is a fair trading company that believes in the
ethical products that benefit artisans and craftsmen, as
well as the planet. It is one of the UK’s leading suppliers
of fair trade, eco-friendly, recycled, remade and ethical
products, selling a wide range of gifts, home and fashion
accessories, furnishings, jewellery and games. It also buys from
approximately 40 suppliers in countries across the world, and
releases hundreds of new lines each year. Managing Director
Jeremy Piercy elaborates.
When I left school in 1972, wanting to see the world, I hitch-hiked to India. It was
a shock to see how so many people lived, yet the poorest people seemed often to
be the most willing to share what they had. In my career, I wanted to repay some
of the hospitality I had received by trying to address the inequalities of wealth in
With the birth of the fair trade movement in the late 1970s, I opened a fair trade
shop in York in 1986, and so Shared Earth was born. A second shop followed in
Leeds in 1988, and by 1992 we had further shops in Bradford, Manchester and
Birmingham. At our height, we had nine shops around the UK, and four franchises.
The financial crisis of 2009-10 was disastrous, however, and a huge loss in our
Birmingham shop led to our main company going into administration. We only just
managed to hold on to our most successful shops in York and Liverpool.
Since 2010, sales have increased almost every year. Our customers love us because
we provide something different such as socks made from bamboo, hand-carved
»Managing Director:
»Established in 1986
»Based in York, with shops in
York and Liverpool
»No. of employees: 20
»Turnover 2018-19: £2.7million
»The widest range of Fair Trade
and recycled gifts in Europe
»Wholesale sales up over 30
per cent every year for the last
6 years
Shared Earth
Highlighting best practice
chess sets, organic candles, gifts
made from recycled bicycle chains
and computer boards. In 1992 we
started wholesaling, initially greetings
cards from the UK, then fair trade
products from overseas. Today, we
buy from India, Madagascar, Peru and
a dozen other countries worldwide.
Turnover has increased by over 25
per cent every year for the last six
years. We have about 1,200 active
customers: zoos, museums, galleries,
corner shops, internet outlets, wildlife
centres and gift shops, including the
Houses of Parliament gift shop. We are
the main gift supplier for Oxfam, our
Fair or trade?
We believe in a fairer world where
people are not exploited, and a
sustainable world where the climate
crisis and other environmental
issues are tackled, not ignored. The
world is changing; Britain is part of
a global community. For a country
to have strong labour rights, and
then sell goods made by children or
forced labour in India or Brazil, is a
contradiction. Business pundits might
scoff at the relevance of such issues,
but more and more large companies
insist that their suppliers are audited
on social and ethical performance.
Countries like Kenya which have
banned single-use plastic bags are the
voice of the future; where is Britain?
Parliament’s decision this May to
declare a climate emergency was a
major step forward. Britain used to be
the leader of the world, and has the
capacity to lead again by its example
on the hugely important issue of
climate change.
We champion such causes not
as campaigners but in a business
setting. Some fair trade businesses
concentrate on the fair and forget
the trade. Getting the balance right
is a key ingredient in our success.
The climate crisis will continue to
cause issues, and products with
reduced environmental impact are
increasingly in demand. The millions
of disposable plastic cups thrown
away each day – 100 million used
just by the NHS each year for the last
five years for example – is a scandal
that the government needs to tackle.
Meanwhile, businesses are leading the
way with reusable cups – ours contain
no plastic and are made from rice
husks – a range which has been an
instant success.
Commitment and enthusiasm
Historically, Britain has long stood for
values such as civilisation, democracy
and justice. People today have
different ideals but awakening their
idealism is key to our success. Many of
our staff know little about fair trade
or environmental issues when they
join us, but new staff soon become
totally committed. When you feel
your job is helping to make a better
world, it becomes more enjoyable.
Because our staff believe in what
they’re selling, they work harder, their
Sustainable wood table
and stools from Thailand
Shared Earth coffee
cup, made from
sustainable rice
Britain used to
be the leader
of the world;
where is it
sales talk is genuine and customer care
In turn, customers can feel that they’re
buying an idea, something that will
benefit others as well as themselves.
The extra sales generated by those who
care about this impact provide us with
a real edge over normal gift shops. This
is reflected in our sales, at a time when
retailing has not been easy. We also
see this trend in our wholesale sales,
with more and more buyers seeing the
ethical aspect as a distinct advantage.
It has helped us to treble our export
customers from 40, two years ago, to
over 120 today. At the Spring Fair in
Birmingham this February, orders were
up 70 per cent.
The friendships we have built up with
our suppliers over the years have
also been invaluable. They help to
promote international co-operation,
valuable friendships across the world.
In business terms, we help each other
out in difficult times; our suppliers
for instance usually agree to delay
our payments if we have cash flow
problems. In turn we sometimes pay
early if our suppliers are in trouble.
And the future?
Of course, our success is not just
down to our ethical stance; it
also depends on good design and
strong product development. The
environmental aspect is becoming
ever more important, however, and
it is a factor in all new ranges we
introduce. Customers ask whether the
raw materials are sustainable, if the
packaging is recyclable and if plastic
can be avoided.
Monitoring our suppliers, to ensure
they maintain the standards we expect,
is also a priority. We need to prove our
claims are justifiable to maintain our
credibility, and the World Fair Trade
Organization, which has members in
over 80 countries, has high standards,
auditing us in great detail every two
years. Our emphasis on fair trade and
environmental aims is increasing. They
are the basis of our success and they
represent trends in society which,
we think, will only grow.Us ilitat. Os
asperferit opta explaudi vercipsunt
modi qui nis aut volum, tem ex et
The friendships
we have built up
with our suppliers
over the years
have also been
A woodcarver in India
A recycled spark plug
figure, made in a Kenya

This article was sponsored by Shared Earth. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster