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&A with Fair Trade USA">Q&A with Fair Trade USA

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Can you tell us about some of the changes occur­ring in Fair Trade Certified cof­fee?
According to the World Bank, more than two bil­lion peo­ple live on less than two dol­lars a day. Today’s Fair Trade model reaches only a small per­cent­age of them. Fair Trade can and must do more.
That is why we are build­ing on the momen­tum of the past 12 years to bring greater impact to farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties around the world. Our new vision, aimed at dou­bling the impact of Fair Trade by 2015, will:

  • Strengthen farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties by invest­ing in coop­er­a­tives and part­ner­ing with oth­ers to pro­vide more impact
  • Innovate the Fair Trade model to include more peo­ple in more com­mu­ni­ties around the world
  • Ignite con­sumer involve­ment to increase aware­ness and sales in order to grow the Fair Trade movement

Today Fair Trade prin­ci­ples are applied some­what incon­sis­tently. In some prod­uct cat­e­gories, like cof­fee, cocoa and sugar, Fair Trade cer­ti­fi­ca­tion has been lim­ited to coop­er­a­tives. In other cat­e­gories, like bananas, tea and flow­ers, farm work­ers on large farms can also receive Fair Trade benefits.

To elim­i­nate these incon­sis­ten­cies Fair trade USA is adapt­ing exist­ing stan­dards and apply­ing them to inde­pen­dent small­hold­ers and farm work­ers on large farms, begin­ning in coffee.

This more inclu­sive model brings the ben­e­fits of Fair Trade to far more farm­ers and work­ers; enables more busi­nesses to develop reli­able and eth­i­cal sup­ply chains; allows more retail­ers to offer more Fair Trade Certified prod­ucts; and gives con­sumers a broader selec­tion of high qual­ity Fair Trade Certified prod­ucts from which to choose.

Is Fair Trade con­cerned about qual­ity, and if so, how?
Fair Trade is absolutely con­cerned about prod­uct qual­ity, from the farm to the cup. While Fair Trade USA does not cer­tify against qual­ity, we do sup­port invest­ment in qual­ity. It is a win-win sit­u­a­tion– higher qual­ity means higher prices and greater impact for farm­ers, and a bet­ter prod­uct for consumers.

In addi­tion to the min­i­mum or mar­ket price, Fair Trade requires that buy­ers pay com­mu­nity devel­op­ment pre­mi­ums. Farmers demo­c­ra­t­i­cally decide how to spend these pre­mi­ums – his­tor­i­cally about 50% of pre­mium dol­lars have been used on projects that improve lives – things like edu­ca­tion, health­care, hous­ing – and about 50% have been used for projects that enable more envi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices and higher qual­ity prod­uct. In cof­fee, we have gone one step fur­ther: of the twenty-cent per pound com­mu­nity devel­op­ment pre­mium, five cents must go directly to qual­ity initiatives.

Fair Trade USA has also part­nered with key inter­na­tional research groups, NGO’s and indus­try part­ners to enhance cof­fee qual­ity. For exam­ple, Fair Trade USA is cur­rently work­ing with the Global Coffee Quality Research Initiative (GCQRI), a col­lab­o­ra­tive research pro­gram of the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try, to help all mem­bers of the Fair Trade cof­fee sup­ply chain improve qual­ity and yields in the face of cli­mate change.

How does Fair trade USA engage cof­fee drink­ing con­sumers and grow con­sumer aware­ness?
Not only does Fair Trade USA sup­port the work of indi­vid­ual brands and com­pa­nies to increase aware­ness and drive sales of Fair Trade Certified cof­fees, we are also able to step out­side these indi­vid­ual brand efforts to grow the Fair Trade move­ment as a whole. Some of these national efforts include pro­grams like: Fair Trade Towns and Universities, Fair Trade Month (every October), and var­i­ous mar­ket­ing, pub­lic rela­tions and online dig­i­tal media pro­grams through­out the year that engage con­sumers on a much larger scale.

Why does Fair Trade USA work with large com­pa­nies?
Fair Trade USA cer­ti­fies and pro­motes Fair Trade prod­ucts, with the aim of alle­vi­at­ing poverty through trade.

While the major­ity of Fair Trade USA’s cof­fee part­ners are small to medium size roast­ers, it’s our phi­los­o­phy that any com­pany of any size should be able to embrace Fair Trade and com­mit to sus­tain­able sourc­ing. Any com­mit­ment to Fair Trade is an impor­tant one, which is why we sup­port both large and small brands in buy­ing and sell­ing Fair Trade Certified cof­fee. When there are more Fair Trade prod­ucts on store shelves, more con­sumers are able to choose Fair Trade and that means more impact back to farmers.

What do Fair Trade USA’s ser­vice fees go to?
Fair Trade USA is a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to alle­vi­at­ing poverty through trade. In addi­tion to mar­ket link­age, we offer a com­pre­hen­sive range of ser­vices to sup­port the sourc­ing of Fair Trade Certified goods, pro­vide cred­i­ble ver­i­fi­ca­tion of respon­si­ble sourc­ing prac­tices, and empower farm­ers and work­ers around the world to earn a fair price and improve their communities.

Specifically, Fair Trade USA’s ser­vice fees go to:

Developing the sup­ply of high-quality, Fair Trade Certified cof­fee
Market access and sup­ply chain sta­bil­ity are core objec­tives of Fair Trade. We con­stantly recruit, train and cer­tify new pro­ducer groups, expand­ing ben­e­fits to more farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties each year. Additionally, importers and roast­ers fre­quently enlist our sup­port to help them iden­tify and part­ner with high-quality Fair Trade farms. We also part­ner with lead­ing NGO’s and indus­try groups to help strengthen exist­ing Fair Trade cooperatives.

Standards & Certification
Fair Trade USA sets rig­or­ous social and envi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, cer­ti­fies farms against those stan­dards, and con­ducts reg­u­lar audits to ensure long term com­pli­ance. Fair Trade USA also audits thou­sands of busi­ness trans­ac­tions each year to ensure the integrity of every prod­uct bear­ing the Fair Trade Certified label.

Building the Fair Trade Movement and dri­ving con­sumer aware­ness and demand
Without a sale, Fair Trade can pro­vide no impact back to farm­ers. Fair Trade USA invests in grow­ing con­sumer aware­ness to drive demand and ben­e­fit far more farm­ers and work­ers around the world.

Measure & Report Impact
Fair Trade USA works with farmer orga­ni­za­tions around the world to cap­ture and sum­ma­rize the impact that results from par­tic­i­pa­tion in Fair Trade. Fair Trade USA shares this infor­ma­tion through detailed impact reports and impact sto­ries that help con­nect con­sumers with the peo­ple behind the products.

It is also impor­tant to note that in 2011 Fair Trade USA reduced ser­vice fees for cof­fee roast­ers across the board. Now, there are zero fees on the first 20,000 pounds of Fair Trade Certified cof­fee pur­chased, and all fees beyond 20,000 pounds have been reduced as well.

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