The future of fairness
The concluding months of 2011 were marked by a period of great change and innovation in the Fair Trade movement: a time of unprecedented forward thinking and passionate debate about what it means to be Fair Trade Certified. We now find ourselves at an exciting crossroads. Fair Trade USA has boldly questioned the status quo and is moving in a new direction to significantly increase the effectiveness and reach of the Fair Trade model. At the beginning of this New Year, we couldn’t be more hopeful about what lies ahead, knowing that as a result of these innovations, we could double our impact in just three years.
At a Crossroads
Fair Trade began modestly in the 1960s with a few committed individuals who believed that access to markets could transform the lives of those struggling under the crushing hand of poverty. The idea was simple: through commerce, people in developing countries could realize the benefits that we take for granted in North America and Europe.
With this foundation, Fair Trade developed into a market-based approach to alleviating poverty in ways that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. Through this model, farming families are able to eat better, keep their kids in school, improve health and housing, and invest in the future of their communities.
Still, Fair Trade can and must do more. This is why Fair Trade USA is embarking on a new vision, Fair Trade for All, aimed at doubling the impact of Fair Trade by 2015 by innovating the model, strengthening farming communities and igniting consumer involvement.
Innovating the Fair Trade Model to Benefit Far More People
There are many voices in the Fair Trade movement, all united under a common mission to alleviate poverty through trade. FLO, one group in the global movement, is focused on small farmers organized into cooperatives. Fair Trade USA, another voice, believes that Fair Trade has to work for all kinds of producers to make a meaningful dent in global poverty.
In its current form, Fair Trade principles are applied inconsistently. For some product categories, like coffee, Fair Trade certification is limited to cooperatives, while in other categories, like bananas and tea, workers on large farms can become certified.
Fair Trade USA resigned our membership from FLO in order to eliminate these inconsistencies which exclude so many from the benefits of Fair Trade. Beginning in coffee, we are adapting Fair Trade standards for both workers on large farms and independent small holders. Through this more inclusive model, Fair Trade USA can reach over 4 million farm workers who are currently excluded from the system.
We plan to implement this change slowly, with 10 – 20 pilot programs over the next two years. Fair Trade USA will assess results at the farm and sector levels, and report on system-wide sales to ensure that the inclusion of new groups does not negatively impact existing cooperatives.