Who We Are

Our mission

We are building an innovative model of responsible business, conscious consumerism, and shared value to eliminate poverty and enable sustainable development for farmers, workers, their families, and their communities around the world.

Our story

It all started with a one-way ticket to Nicaragua. That, and coffee.

The summer of 1983 was the start of an 11-year stay in Nicaragua for Paul Rice, who would later become founder of Fair Trade USA®. The year that started it all, he recruited 24 coffee farmers to agree to sell their coffee on fair trade terms. After the first harvest, farmers received a dramatically higher income, enabling them to invest in homes, electricity, and running water—things they had previously been unable to afford. The next year, even more coffee farmers joined. And the next, until that group had grown to include more than 3,000 families, and Paul returned to the United States to launch Fair Trade USA in 1998. We were a small but mighty group, working in partnership with a handful of rural farmers and a few mission-driven coffee companies who believed the fair trade movement would become part of a much larger shift toward conscious consumerism. Today, fair trade has grown into a leading market-based model of sustainable production, trade, and consumption. The success of core products like coffee has attracted pioneering brands and retailers in other industries including apparel, home goods, fisheries, and more. Together, we are innovating the fair trade model and creating impact for farmers, workers, and fishermen worldwide.

Over the Years

  1. 1998

    TransFair USA (now Fair Trade USA) opens its doors in Oakland, California. Paul Rice is named President and CEO.

  2. 1999

    TransFair USA begins certifying Fair Trade coffee.

  3. 2001

    Seattle-based Choice Organic Teas becomes the first tea brand in the United States to offer Fair Trade Certified™ teas.

  4. 2002

    The United States Fair Trade market expands to include Fair Trade Certified™ hot cocoa mix and chocolate bars in the wake of world cocoa prices hitting record lows and media exposing rampant child labor on West African cocoa farms. CostPlus World Market begins selling a line of dark, white, and milk chocolate bars in its 190 stores throughout the country.

    Cacao-growing cooperatives representing 42,000 farmers in Belize, Bolivia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, and Nicaragua begin benefitting from Fair Trade certification.

  5. 2003

    Honest Tea launches Peach Oo-La-Long, the first bottled tea to ever use Fair Trade Certified™ tea leaves and their most popular flavor on the West Coast that year. Sales of Fair Trade Certified tea reach $85,000 in additional income for farming families in India, Sri Lanka, China, and Vietnam.

  6. 2004

    Fair Trade expands into the produce section. As covered by the New York Times, in 2004 alone, TransFair USA certifies more than 8 million pounds of organic bananas from Ecuador, 470,000 pounds of Costa Rican pineapples, 100,000 pounds of mangoes from Mexico and Peru, and 9,000 pounds of grapes from South Africa.

  7. 2005

    Costco, Sam's Club and select McDonald's begin selling Fair Trade Certified™ coffees, moving Fair Trade into the mainstream. Fair Trade Certified coffee sales top 44 million pounds.

    Fair Trade Certified rice and sugar hit the United States market for the first time. Vanilla is soon to follow.

  8. 2006

    On July 8, 2006, the small town of Media, Pennsylvania declares itself the first Fair Trade Town in the United States.

    TransFair USA receives Fast Company’s annual Social Capitalist Award for the third year in a row.

  9. 2007

    United States retail sales of Fair Trade Certified™ products surpass $1 billion.

  10. 2008

    Whole Foods, Sam's Club, and Target launch the first Fair Trade Certified™ wine in the United States. Honey—launched by Wholesome Sweeteners—and flowers follow close behind.

    CEO Paul Rice joins President Bill Clinton addressing the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting and closes with a public commitment to launch Fair Trade cotton and apparel.

  11. 2010

    TransFair USA changes its name to Fair Trade USA and launches the first Fair Trade Certified apparel products in the United States with PrAna.

  12. 2011

    Fair Trade USA parts ways with Fair Trade International and announces Fair Trade for All, a vision to double the impact of Fair Trade for farmers and workers by 2015.

  13. 2012

    The newly-redesigned Fair Trade Certified™ seal hits store shelves in Canada and the United States.

  14. 2013

    Fair Trade USA certifies the first coconut supply chain of 1,200 farmers in southern Luzon, Philippines to bring Fair Trade coconut water to the United States.

  15. 2014

    West Elm becomes the first home retailer to join Fair Trade USA, with a product assortment that has since grown to include rugs, bedding, and furniture.

  16. 2015

    Mission accomplished! The Fair Trade for All vision to double Fair Trade’s impact for farmers and workers between 2011 and 2015 is met and exceeded. Between 2011 and 2015, Fair Trade’s impact grew from $79 million to $203 million.

    Safeway and Fair Trade USA announce a partnership to launch Fair Trade Certified™ seafood into the North American market to bring the benefits of Fair Trade to small scale fishermen and their communities.

  17. 2016

    Fair Trade USA certifies the first Fair Trade Certified™ farm in the United States, Wholesum Harvest in southern Arizona.

  18. 2017

    For the first year ever, Fair Trade Community Development Funds surpass record-breaking $50 million in a single year.

  19. 2018

    Fair Trade USA celebrates 20 years and $551 million in cumulative financial benefit to producers, including nearly $380 million in Community Development Funds and more than $172 million as a result of the Fair Trade Minimum Price.


Fair Trade USA is guided by a diverse team of leaders who are united under our mission to alleviate global poverty and promote sustainable development.

Senior management

Board of directors

Advisory council

Work at Fair Trade USA

From our headquarters in Oakland, California, to farms, factories, and fisheries worldwide, we’re making big, measurable differences with our global perspective and hard work.