Fair Trade USA Announces Innovation Strategy to Double Impact for Farming Communities by 2015

Sep 19, 2011, 09:00 ET from Fair Trade USA

NEW YORK, Sept. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Fair Trade USA, the leading U.S. certifier of Fair Trade products, today launched a new innovation strategy – Fair Trade for All – to double U.S. sales for Fair Trade farmers and extend Fair Trade benefits to millions of additional farmers and workers by 2015. This bold new vision will generate significantly more additional income and community development funding for farming communities around the world. Fair Trade USA's President and CEO made the announcement today at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting.

Building on the momentum of the past 12 years, Fair Trade USA's new strategy will strengthen farming communities through investments in cooperatives and the formation of powerful new partnerships to provide more impact; innovate the Fair Trade model to include more people in more communities around the world; and ignite consumer involvement to increase awareness and build the Fair Trade movement.

"Fair Trade is a comprehensive approach to sustainable development that improves lives and protects the planet," said Paul Rice. "Since 1998, Fair Trade USA and our many partners have generated $220 million in additional income for farmers and workers and placed nearly 10,000 Fair Trade Certified products on store shelves across the nation.

However, according to the World Bank, there are still more than two billion people living on less than $2 (USD) a day. This figure is as shocking as it is morally challenging. And while we recognize that Fair Trade is not the complete solution for everyone who struggles with poverty, we do believe that Fair Trade can and must do more."

Strengthening Farming Communities

Farming cooperatives that produce and export on behalf of their members are the backbone of the Fair Trade model today, representing over 1.2 million farming families in 70 countries worldwide. Fair Trade USA and partners recently launched a cooperative development program called Co-op Link. The program is designed to help cooperatives develop the business capacity to become competitive and stay that way well into the future. Co-op Link addresses four key areas: 1) access to affordable short-term working and long-term investment capital; 2) training to strengthen organizational business capacity; 3) research and training to improve quality and productivity; and 4) market linkage support to help cooperatives find U.S. buyers and diversify markets.

Plus, innovative new partnerships with leading social entrepreneurs will provide Fair Trade farming communities with expertise to convert Fair Trade community development funds into effective solutions to address critical social challenges including water, food security, healthcare, education and sustainable agriculture.

Innovating the Fair Trade Model

Today Fair Trade standards successfully support cooperatives, small farmers unable to access the support of a cooperative and farm workers in cotton, rice, tea, flowers and bananas, but not in coffee, sugar or cocoa. As a model that seeks to alleviate poverty and empower farming communities, this inconsistency and systematic exclusion within the Fair Trade system is no longer acceptable.

To create a more just and consistent Fair Trade model, Fair Trade USA will adapt existing international Fair Trade standards from tea, bananas and flowers, and apply them first to coffee and then to additional categories over time. Rice adds, "We must innovate responsibly, including the entire rural community while ensuring that growth also benefits our historic partners in the Fair Trade system. In this respect, Fair Trade USA is conducting feasibility studies in a few coffee-producing regions to determine how best to pilot standards that will include additional producer groups."

In addition to significantly increasing impact opportunities for farmers and farm workers, the expanded sources of high-quality Fair Trade supply will increase opportunities for U.S. businesses and consumers to do more good for more people.

Igniting Consumer Involvement

Since Fair Trade launched in Europe 50 years ago, European consumer awareness has grown to well over 80 percent in many markets.  In the United States, however, the movement is much newer and only 34 percent of consumers are aware of Fair Trade. Given the extraordinary size of the U.S. consumer market, and the massive annual expenditures in coffee, chocolate, sugar, produce and other key Fair Trade products, even modest increases in consumer awareness and involvement will return significant impact for farmers.

At the heart of this effort is the growing grassroots movement led by the national Fair Trade Towns and Universities campaigns. For the socially-conscious consumer, Fair Trade provides a framework for sustainable consumption and positive community action that leads to immediate impact on farming families. Over the next two years, we expect to see active campaigns in more than 100 towns and universities.

Complementing grassroots efforts, Fair Trade USA has partnered with brands, retailers and NGOs to launch our most comprehensive national awareness campaign ever for Fair Trade Month in October. This annual promotional campaign promises to gain a whole new level of industry involvement and consumer impact, based on our new messaging platform – Every Purchase Matters – brought to life through social media, digital advertising and public relations.

Fair Trade advocates now have access to awareness building materials that can be customized and downloaded to educate diverse audiences about the positive impact of Fair Trade Certified products. To further engage consumers, Fair Trade USA will introduce a Fair Trade Finder application for Facebook and mobile phones on October 1, 2011 to help consumers search for, discover, and share Fair Trade products in their communities. This tool will continue to grow over time and be a key driver of awareness and understanding as we help consumers make every purchase matter.

Making it Happen

To achieve these ambitious goals, Fair Trade USA is creating new partnerships with expertise in:

  • Access to Capital: Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, Kiva, Rabobank, ResponsAbility, Root Capital
  • Producer & Farmer Support: Latin American and Caribbean Network for Small Fair Trade Producers (CLAC), AVINA Foundation, VIVA Trust, Global Coffee Quality Research Initiative, Green Mountain Coffee, Sustainable Harvest, United Farm Workers, Heifer International
  • Impact Assessment: Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) The Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA)
  • Standards and Certification:  Scientific Certification Systems (SCS)

Moving forward, we will work together to foster sustainable solutions that will strengthen farming communities for generations to come.

Fair Trade USA (previously TransFair USA), a nonprofit organization, is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods were paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower and uplift their communities. Fair Trade USA educates consumers, brings new manufacturers and retailers into the Fair Trade system, and provides farming communities with tools, training and resources to thrive as international businesspeople. Visit www.FairTradeUSA.org for more information.