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Harriet Lamb, WRAP, smiling with a dog outside
Podcast / The Big Interviews
Podcast / The Big Interviews

The heartbreaking story that inspires WRAP CEO Harriet Lamb

What is it that drives Harriet Lamb, the woman behind the Fairtrade movement and current CEO of WRAP?

It is the first question we ask in this episode of the Food Matters Live podcast, and the answer is a chastening one.

“I was researching why bananas are so cheap in our shops and I went to Costa Rica,” she says. “I was met by Carlos, who drives me for miles through plantations of bananas, beautifully green, absolutely silent because so many pesticides have been used that there is none of the normal animal life.

“Carlos was one of the tens of thousands of Latin American men who was made sterile as a result of spraying those chemicals. But he took me to meet a woman, Maria, who suffered a worse fate.

“She gave birth to a baby whose head was swollen like a huge balloon, with no eyelids, with no lips. She said the worst thing was that her baby was in constant pain.

“Even when she scooped him up to comfort him, which is of course your instinct as a mum, it only made the crying worse. And there was nothing she could do but cry with him.

“Carlos and I left Maria and got back in the car and drove back through those silent banana plantations and I knew then, as I know now, that there has to be a better way to grow food and trade our food, than one that puts people and planet last like that.”

In the years that followed, Harriet built the Fairtrade movement.

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The certification system laid out production standards for global trade, protecting countless workers and farmers from exploitation, unlivable incomes, and unacceptable working conditions.

She is an experienced CEO, having also led the peace-building organisation, International Alert, and the sustainability focused charity Ashden.

She has received an embarrassment of well-deserved recognition for her work, including being awarded a CBE and becoming the first woman Honorary Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

Harriet has recently taken on the role of CEO at WRAP, an NGO working globally to tackle the climate crisis and ensure a sustainable future.

In this episode of the podcast, we explore her extraordinary career, look at some of the work she is doing with WRAP, and talk about the future of sustainability.

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