Submitted by Fair Trade USA
"It gives me hope when I see so many people from such different worlds uniting in the common cause of Fair Trade -- more and more, companies realize that it's simply good business," said TransFair USA CEO and Founder Paul Rice. "What started as a niche movement of cause-based organizations has blossomed into a mainstream ethical consumer movement driven by a simple premise -- for trade to be truly sustainable, producers, consumers, industry and the Earth must all benefit."
Fair Trade is more than promising farmers a fair price for their crop; it's an innovative, market-based approach to sustainable development. Additional Fair Trade premiums fund community and business development projects. Fair Trade Certified cooperatives promote sustainable farming practices, ban dangerous agro-chemicals and GMOs, and prohibit forced child labor. Through democratically organized Fair Trade Certified cooperatives, small-scale family farmers increase their business capacity and connect directly with international buyers, reaping invaluable industry feedback, training and assistance in times of crisis -- services a middleman doesn't offer. By learning how to market their own harvests, these farmers also become thriving small-business owners, reinvesting in processes and facilities that improve quality and protect the environment. The Coffee Review gave Fair Trade Certified coffees an average rating of 87.3 out of 100 points in 2004 -- this score beats the average for non-Fair Trade Certified specialty coffees, and has continued to rise.
In the Beginning...
Fair Trade started in Europe in the 1940s with faith-based groups and mission-driven organizations that bought crafts and food items directly from refugees and sold them in their communities. Fast forward to the United States, 1986 -- in response to a burgeoning coffee crisis that sent many small-scale coffee farmers into spiraling debt and poverty, Massachusetts-based Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative, brought the first Fair Trade coffee to the U.S. market. Two years later the first certification initiative began in the Netherlands. The Max Havelaar label -- named after a fictional character who opposed the exploitation of coffee pickers in Dutch colonies -- offered the mainstream coffee industry a standardized system of Fair Trade criteria. In 1997, Fair Labelling Organizations International (FLO) -- the international umbrella organization based in Bonn, Germany -- brought together Max Havelaar with its counterparts in other countries. Today, TransFair USA is one of 20 members of FLO, including Canada, Japan and 17 European countries.
A handful of mission-driven boutique roasters were the first to rally behind the Fair Trade Certified label in the U.S., including Equal Exchange, Thanksgiving Coffee Company, Peace Coffee, Cafe Campesino, Uncommon Grounds, Equator Coffee, Mr. Espresso, Texas Coffee Traders, Montana Coffee Traders, Steep & Brew, Taylor Maid Farms, McLaughlin Coffee, Kaladi Coffee, Cafe Mam, Alterra Coffee and Cafe Ibis -- companies that continue to make Fair Trade the focus of their business model.
"These pioneering companies are visionaries who took risks, showing the specialty coffee industry that Fair Trade is a viable business model," said Rice. "Students, NGOs and faith-based groups also deserve credit for building the movement; their support gave our label credibility and their educational outreach inspired our core consumer base, paving the way for today's growth of Fair Trade Certified coffee in the mainstream."
Broad community support
Since TransFair USA's inception, Oxfam America has been a strong promoter of the Fair Trade Certified label. Along with developing close relationships with Fair Trade Certified cooperatives worldwide, the organization has spearheaded consumer education and campaigns to get more Fair Trade products on supermarket shelves. In 2004, Co-op America set up a network of organizations, businesses and individuals called the Fair Trade Alliance. Global Exchange has produced excellent Fair Trade campaign tools and resources, and has stores that carry Fair Trade goods.
Faith-based organizations have played a key role in spreading Fair Trade Certified coffee, appealing to universal values at the heart of Fair Trade. Lutheran World Relief developed the Interfaith Fair Trade Initiative, a program that educated parish members about Fair Trade and offered Fair Trade goods. Since 2003, Lutherans have purchased at least half a million pounds of Fair Trade Certified coffee, the majority of Equal Exchange's Interfaith Coffee Program. Catholic Relief Services has a strong Fair Trade Coffee Program, as does Episcopal Relief & Development, whose partnership with Pura Vida Coffee produced the Fair Trade Certified Bishop's Blend.
In 2004, United Students for Fair Trade (USFT) began organizing consumer outreach programs and campaigns to bring Fair Trade Certified coffee to campus dining halls and cafes. Today, over 400 campuses nationwide have active Fair Trade advocacy programs, and the yearly USFT Convergence brings together students from campuses nationwide to share outreach strategies and the latest trends in the Fair Trade movement.
Fair Trade Certified goes mainstream
In 2000, specialty coffee roasters Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), Peet's Coffee & Tea, Starbucks and Tully's began offering Fair Trade Certified coffee. Sales of GMCR's Fair Trade Certified coffee have steadily increased 40%-to-50% each year, and the Company experienced a 44% gain recently, driven primarily by the November launch of their Fair Trade Certified Newman's Own Organics Blend, made exclusively for more than 650 select Northeast McDonald's restaurants. Starbucks have doubled their Fair Trade Certified commitment every year since 2001, purchasing over 11 million pounds in 2005. The growth spike was felt by companies that offered 100% Fair Trade Certified as well -- Equal Exchange's sales of coffee, tea, chocolate and cocoa doubled between 2003 and 2005, from $10.4 million to $20.8 million. Fair Trade certified is now available in supermarkets nationwide, including Wild Oats Markets, Giant Eagle, Publix, Shaw's Supermarkets, Target, Stop 'n' Shop, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Safeway.
In 2003, Dunkin' Donuts became the first national brand to sell 100% Fair Trade Certified espresso drinks, spreading Fair Trade to an even broader consumer base -- millions of customers in over 4,000 stores nationwide.
In 2005, Fair Trade Certified coffee reached large-volume club stores. Costco converted their private label Kirkland Signature to Fair Trade Certified Starbucks' beans, and Cafe Bom Dia -- a producer of organic, Fair Trade Brazilian coffees, and the first TransFair USA licensed manufacturing partner to roast and package coffee at origin -- partnered with SAM'S CLUB to offer a Fair Trade Certified French Roast blend. The combined membership of both club stores brings Fair Trade Certified coffee to over 80 million U.S. households. These high-volume partnerships have made an impact at origin -- since October, SAM'S CLUB has purchased over 1 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified coffee, generating nearly $700,000 in additional, above-market revenue for over 2,000 Brazilian farmers and their families.
"We welcome these partnerships because historically small-scale farmers have been left out of high-volume trade relations," said Rice.
Ultimately, the success of Fair Trade Certified coffee is due to one simple reason -- consumers care. According to a recent study by the Natural Marketing Institute, nearly 90% of Americans say it's important for companies to not only be profitable, but to also be mindful of their impact on society and the environment, with 70% saying they're more likely to support companies that do. As Fair Trade Certified coffee spreads from a mission-driven niche to a vertical, mainstream market, TransFair USA's third-party guarantee is a promise consumers can trust no matter where they shop.
"In a world where coffee drinkers rarely have the opportunity to meet the farmer that nurtured their daily brew, Fair Trade puts a face on an otherwise faceless commodity, creating a worldwide coffee farmer's market," said Rice. "Buying Fair Trade Certified coffee makes the consumer feel good about themselves, ensuring quality coffee, thriving producer communities, environmental stewardship and more responsible business practices."
TransFair USA also certifies tea, chocolate, cocoa, rice, sugar and fresh fruit, and plans to role out a new Fair Trade Certified product every year. Dramatic early growth in each product category indicates that these Fair Trade Certified goods have the same market potential as coffee.
About TransFair USA
TransFair USA, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, is one of twenty members of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), and the only independent, third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. It audits transactions between U.S. companies offering Fair Trade Certified(TM) products and the international suppliers from whom they source, in order to guarantee that the farmers and farm workers behind Fair Trade Certified goods were paid a fair, above-market price. In addition, annual inspections conducted by FLO ensure that strict socioeconomic development criteria are being met using increased Fair Trade revenues. For more information visit www.transfairusa.org.
Copyright Business Wire 2006
Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in North America. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between companies and their international suppliers to ensure 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 also educates consumers, brings new manufacturers and retailers into the system, and provides farming communities with tools, training and resources to thrive as international businesspeople. Visit www.FairTradeCertified.org for more information.
More from Fair Trade USA