Jo Fairley North East

Jo Fairley from Green & Black’s Unveils North East Roots

Green & Black’s co-founder Jo Fairley reveals her North East roots as she shares her ethical chocolate success story

‘Honorary Geordie’ and co-founder of Green & Black’s, Jo Fairley, revealed her remarkable ties to the North East as she visited a school in Newcastle to share the inspiring story of her success.

Speaking to a captivated audience at Dame Allan’s Schools’ renowned lecture series, Jo recounted the remarkable transformation of the ethical chocolate brand Green & Black’s. From its humble beginnings in a portobello bedroom to its current status as a global brand valued at almost £100m.

While preparing to take to the stage, Jo disclosed an intriguing discovery. A genetic test had unveiled a match between her DNA and that of Newcastle natives, proving an ancestral connection to the city.

Jo Fairley on her North East Roots

She said: “When I had an ancestry test done, I received a map of where my DNA comes from. The highest concentration of people with my DNA is around Newcastle… I’m an honorary Geordie!”

Jo, who carved her career in journalism and at just 23 years old was the youngest-ever magazine editor, co-founded Green & Black’s in 1991 with her husband, organic pioneer Craig Sams, founder of Whole Earth Foods.

Her lecture took the 250-strong audience on a journey spanning more than three decades. From sketching chocolate brand ideas on a yellow notepad while in bed at her Portobello Road flat, to growing Green & Black’s into the ethical brand that has changed the lives of thousands of people in the developing world.

Commitment to Sustainability

Jo Fairley North East

Green & Black’s commitment to sustainability and ethical sourcing led to rapid growth and acclaim. In 1994, Green & Black’s introduced Maya Gold, the world’s first Fairtrade-certified chocolate, setting a precedent for socially responsible production.

In 1999, Cadbury acquired the company, providing the resources for expanded distribution while maintaining the brand’s integrity. And in 2010, Green & Black’s became the UK’s first chocolate brand to be awarded the Fairtrade Mark across its entire range. Further cementing its reputation for ethical excellence.

She said: “The key factors in our success are things that any business has to get right. The product itself; branding; design; PR; customer service; and, very importantly for us, the ethics that underpin the brand.

“This isn’t rocket science. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to have a very successful venture. You just have to get these certain things right.”

Isabel, an aspiring journalist and Year 12 pupil at Dame Allan’s Sixth Form, attended the lecture. She said: “Jo is such an inspirational woman; I hope I can have a career like hers in the future.”

Jo, along with Craig, continues to serve as a chocolate ambassador for Green & Black’s. She was the third keynote speaker in the second year of Dame Allan’s lecture series. The programme, featuring talks by influential figures including bread mogul Jonathan Warburton and BBC Dragon and crafting entrepreneur Sara Davies MBE, is there to empower pupils and raise their aspirations. It is backed by Mark Dolder, CEO of Northumberland-based Bazaar Group and a former pupil at the school.

Will Scott, Principal at Dame Allan’s Schools, said:

“Jo Fairley’s fascinating lecture not only delved into the intricacies of entrepreneurship but also highlighted the positive impact of ethical business practices.

“Her journey with Green & Black’s is one of innovation and sustainability. I’m confident that her key messages will empower our students to pursue their dreams with purpose and integrity.”