Fair Trade USA
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|Headquarters||Oakland, California, United States|
|Paul Rice, President and CEO|
Ron D. Cordes, Chairman of the Board
Number of employees
Fair Trade USA, formerly "TransFair USA", is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, that sets standards, certifies, and labels products that promote sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers and protect the environment.
Founded in 1998 by the Institute for Agricultural Trade Policy (IATP), Fair Trade USA is an independent, nonprofit organization that sets standards, certifies, and labels products that promote sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers and protect the environment. Its mission is to "enable sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth".
The fair trade model requires rigorous protection of local ecosystems and ensures farmers work in safe conditions and receive a harvest price. In addition, annual inspections conducted by independent auditors like FLO-CERT and SCS Global Services ensure that strict socioeconomic development criteria are being met, in addition to sustainable farm management, environmental stewardship and democratic decision-making. The fair trade model seeks to empower farmers and workers around the world, keeping families, local economies, the natural environment, and the larger community strong today and for generations to come.
Fair Trade USA partners with over 800 brands, as well as 1.3 million farmers and workers in over 70 countries worldwide. Fair trade Certified products encompass many different commodities including coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, spices, honey, produce, grains, wine and spirits, flowers, apparel and home goods, and body care. These commodities differ in location and types of labor used.
Growth in fair trade
Since 1998, Fair Trade USA has certified over 1 billion pounds of fair trade coffee. This has helped coffee farmers in developing countries earn over $124 million in Community Development Premiums to date, with $30.8 million in 2013 alone. These additional premiums are reinvested in family and community development, education, and environmental and productivity projects.
Although coffee remains the most popular fair trade product, Fair Trade USA certifies a variety of product categories, including tea, cocoa, sugar, spices, honey, produce, grains, wine and spirits, flowers, apparel and home goods, and body care. There are more than 12,000 individual Fair Trade Certified products available in North America, and the market is growing rapidly.
In 2011, Fair Trade Certified sales amounted to approximately US$1.4 billion. And in 2010, data confirmed that mainstream consumers were increasing commitment to Fair Trade Certified products, with a 24% sales increase in grocery stores.
According to data from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), as of 2014[update], 55% of the U.S. population was aware of the Fair Trade Certified label, up from 38% in 2012. Awareness is reaching levels similar to USDA Organic certification.
Each year Fair Trade USA conducts two major consumer education campaigns: Fair Trade Month (October) and Mother's Day (May).
Fair Trade Month
October is Fair Trade Month in the United States. This yearly celebration focuses on increasing awareness and building support for Fair Trade in the United States. Throughout the month, manufacturers, retailers, students, NGO organizations and Fair Trade Towns hold events and promotions in support of Fair Trade.
In 2011, Fair Trade USA and partner brands garnered support for Fair Trade with the help of several celebrity ambassadors.
Comedian Jimmy Fallon kicked off Fair Trade Month by hosting ice cream makers Ben & Jerry on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The October 4, 2011, episode mentioned the March episode in which Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield introduced their new flavor featuring Fair Trade Certified ingredients, Late Night Snack. Introducing the ice cream flavor, which is made with Fair Trade Certified vanilla and cocoa, gave Ben and Jerry the opportunity to discuss Fair Trade and the company's goal to use entirely Fair Trade Certified ingredients by 2013.
Green Mountain Coffee partnered with musical groups Michael Franti & Spearhead and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals to broadcast live concerts promoting Fair Trade. Both concerts were streamed on the Green Mountain Coffee Facebook page. Green Mountain Coffee was recognized in September 2011 as the world's largest purchaser of Fair Trade Certified coffee, having bought 26 million pounds during 2010.
Also in 2011, pastry chef Malika Ameen of Top Chef: Just Desserts Season 1 joined celebrity dietician Ashley Koff to create three dishes using Fair Trade Certified ingredients for a live Ustream broadcast during Fair Trade Month. The episode was called "Every Meal Matters" and consisted of a live cooking demonstration using Fair Trade Certified honey, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, bananas, mangos, pineapples, quinoa, natural cane sugar, coffee, chocolate, and brown sugar.
Fair Trade USA has been its own independent, nonprofit organization since it was founded it 1998, as well as a member of Fairtrade International. On September 15, 2011, Fair Trade USA announced that it would resign its FLO membership. In a press release, the organization states that "Fairtrade International (FLO) and Fair Trade USA share a belief in the importance of empowering producers and workers around the world to improve their lives through better terms of trade. However, as we look to the future, we recognize that we have different perspectives on how best to achieve this common mission. " After resigning its membership, Fair Trade USA launched a new initiative called Fair Trade for All, which is a vision for doubling the impact of Fair Trade for more farmers and workers across the globe.
As part of this strategy, Fair Trade USA launched pilot projects to extend certification to groups in the coffee industry who were historically excluded by FLO standards, beginning with coffee farm workers and independent smallholder farmers. The group states that "According to U.N. poverty statistics, over two billion people still live on less than two dollars a day. We at Fair Trade USA believe that all small farmers and farm workers deserve to have access to the opportunities and benefits of Fair Trade if we ever hope to make a significant dent in global poverty." At the same time, Fair Trade USA launched Co-Op Link, an initiative that FTUSA claims will strengthen producer organizations by providing cooperatives with increased market opportunity in the U.S., improved access to capital and an expanded range of capacity building and quality improvement initiatives.
Paul Rice told Triple Pundit: "The challenge for us all now is how we can evolve the Fair Trade model in order to make it bigger, more scalable and to have greater impact on hard working farmers and farm workers around the world. And so toward that end we've recently launched Fair Trade for All, which is our effort to evolve and innovate the Fair Trade model in order to make it more scalable. 'Innovation for impact' is really the way we're thinking about it.
Fair Trade USA announced a partnership with Scientific Certification Systems on September 27, 2011, to conduct audits and certify new producer groups that now will be able to join the Fair Trade movement.
Criticisms of Fair Trade
There have been very few attempts at Fair trade impact studies. It would be methodologically and logically incorrect to use these attempts to conclude that fair trade in general does or does not have a positive impact. Griffiths (2011) argues that few of these attempts meet the normal standards for an impact study, such as comparing the before and after situation, having meaningful control groups, allowing for the fact that fair trade recruits farmers who are already better off, allowing for the fact that a fair trade cooperative receives aid from a dozen other organizations – Government Departments, Aid Agencies, donor countries, and NGOs, and allowing for the fact that fair trade may harm other farmers. Serious methodological problems arise in sampling, in comparing prices, and from the fact that the social projects of fair trade do not usually aim to produce economic benefits.
Fair trade supporters boast of 'the honeypot effect' – that cooperatives which become fair trade members then attract additional aid from other NGO charities, government and international donors as a result of their membership. Typically there are now six to twelve other donors. Critics point out that this inevitably means that resources are being removed from other, poorer, farmers. It also makes it impossible to argue that any positive or negative changes in the living standards of farmers are due to Fairtrade rather than to one of the other donors.
Booth says that the selling techniques used by some sellers and some supporters of Fairtrade are bullying, misleading and unethical. There are problems with the use of boycott campaigns and other pressure to force sellers to stock a product they think ethically suspect. Some people argue that these practices are justifiable: that strategic use of labeling may help embarrass (or encourage) major suppliers into changing their practices. They may make transparent corporate vulnerabilities that activists can exploit. Or they may encourage ordinary people to get involved with broader projects of social change.
There are complaints that the standards are inappropriate and may harm producers, sometimes imposing months of additional work for little return.
There have been claims that adherence to fair trade standards by producers has been poor and that enforcement of standards by Fairtrade is very weak, notably by Christian Jacquiau and by Paola Ghillani, who spent four years as president of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations There are many complaints of poor enforcement problems: labourers on fair trade farms in Peru are paid less than the minimum wage; some non-Fairtrade coffee is sold as Fairtrade 'the standards are not very strict in the case of seasonally hired labour in coffee production.' 'some fair trade standards are not strictly enforced' supermarkets avoid their responsibility. In 2006, a Financial Times journalist found that ten out of ten mills visited had sold uncertified coffee to co-operatives as certified. It reported that "The FT was also handed evidence of at least one coffee association that received fair trade certification despite illegally growing some 20 per cent of its coffee in protected national forest land. A lot of volunteers do unpaid work for firms, or market fair trade in schools, universities, local governments or parliament. Crane and Davies' study shows that distributors in developed countries make 'considerable use of unpaid volunteer workers for routine tasks, many of whom seemed to be under the (false) impression that they were helping out a charity.' Other critics in the Fair trade debate claim that the volunteers cannot know what fair trade does achieve and what harm it does, because the information is concealed from them.
Segments of the trade justice movement have also criticized fair trade in the past years for allegedly focusing too much on individual small producer groups while stopping short of advocating immediate trade policy changes that would have a larger impact on disadvantaged producers' lives. French author and RFI correspondent Jean-Pierre Boris championed this view in his 2005 book Commerce inéquitable.
There have been largely political criticisms of fair trade, both from the left and the right. Some believe the fair trade system is not radical enough. French author Christian Jacquiau, in his book Les coulisses du commerce équitable, calls for stricter fair trade standards and criticizes the fair trade movement for working within the current system (i.e. partnerships with mass retailers, multinational corporations etc.) rather than establishing a new fairer, fully autonomous trading system. Jacquiau is also a staunch supporter of significantly higher fair trade prices in order to maximize the impact, as most producers only sell a portion of their crop under fair trade terms. It has been argued that the approach of the fair trade system is too rooted in a Northern consumerist view of justice which Southern producers do not participate in setting. "A key issue is therefore to make explicit who possesses the power to define the terms of fair trade, that is who possesses the power to determine the need of an ethic in the first instance, and subsequently command a particular ethical vision as the truth." Some of the criticisms of fair trade from the free market approach to economics appear to be linked to right wing political approaches, but this does not mean that their analysis in this particular case is unacceptable to mainstream economists.
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