On a recent visit to Mexico, I was once again inspired by the resilience and optimism of Fair Trade farmworkers.
I hope this finds you healthy, hopeful, and enjoying the New Year. As we welcome 2024 and look back on 2023, I want to share a few reflections and highlights from the Fair Trade movement. Despite the challenges we all faced in 2023, there are many reasons to feel grateful and optimistic about our collective future.
This year, across our programs in coffee, produce, apparel, and 40+ other product categories, Fair Trade USA partnered with over 1,700 brands and retailers to deliver life-changing impact to over 1 million farmers, workers, and their families in 51 countries around the world.
In 2022, we celebrated our billionth dollar of cumulative financial impact for those families. And last year, we added an estimated $80 million on top of that. In the face of economic headwinds, war, and market volatility, these funds are making a huge difference in the lives of those that we serve.
We see Fair Trade producers investing these additional funds in so many inspiring and meaningful ways. From tomato farmworkers in Mexico receiving dental and eye care for the first time, to factory workers in Vietnam administering hepatitis vaccines, to smallholder coffee farmers in Ethiopia creating scholarships for their kids to stay in school, these stories of impact illuminate our mantra: business can and must be a force for good!
A few other 2023 Fair Trade highlights worth noting:
- We launched a historic coffee innovation initiative, partnering with world-class consultants at IDEO.org and an impressive, global Coffee Impact Advisory Board.
- In response to our innovations in produce, NatureSweet is converting 100% of its branded snacking tomatoes to Fair Trade Certified. NatureSweet will become the highest-volume Fair Trade produce supplier in the world in 2024, improving the lives of over 6,000 farmworkers and their families in Mexico and the U.S.
- We partnered with e.l.f. Beauty to write a compelling case study on sustainability. In just a few short years, e.l.f. is already up to 75% Fair Trade Certified.
- We made significant progress in our technological transformation, innovating our tools and programs to enable future growth and impact at scale. Part of this included the evolution of our Factory Program, which led to a dramatic increase in new factories joining our certification in 2023.
- Another transformation project, funded by the Walmart Foundation, is helping us Leverage Technology to Strengthen Responsible Recruitment in agriculture. Fair Trade USA has made a big commitment to the verification of responsible recruiting practices, as this is essential for eliminating labor trafficking in supply chains.
- As a vote of confidence in our vision for technology innovation, Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently awarded us their IMAGINE Grant which we will use to deploy AI and other tools to provide unprecedented supply chain transparency and insights to our industry partners, putting supply chain and impact data at their fingertips.
In short, despite the headwinds we faced in 2023, there is so much to celebrate. And when I think about these accomplishments, I am reminded that YOU helped make this transformative impact possible. For your support, I am humbled and forever grateful.
What’s ahead? For Fair Trade USA, we will continue to innovate and grow our model, inspired by our vision of Fair Trade for All. We believe that Fair Trade has the promise and potential to generate transformative impact not just for a million families but for tens of millions of families around the world. Equally important, Fair Trade is a unique learning laboratory for the broader responsible sourcing movement, for the regenerative economy, and for the emergence of conscious capitalism. When I look 20 years into the future, I believe Fair Trade and other models of economic inclusion and supply chain sustainability will become the “new normal.” If I’m right, that means that you and our global community of supporters are visionary co-authors of a whole new chapter in capitalism which harmonizes people, planet, and prosperity.
So, on behalf of the entire Fair Trade USA team and all the families and communities that we serve, I send you my heartfelt thanks for all that you do, every day, to make the world better. I am so proud of what we are accomplishing together!
A final word, given the challenges that 2023 presented, we need your help! If you feel inspired to help us kick the new year off with a tax-deductible contribution to our work, I would be so grateful. The leverage is extraordinary: every dollar you contribute generates $4 in impact for farmers, workers, and their families.
Please join our community of philanthropic supporters and donate here.
And, whether you can donate to the cause or not, we’d be so grateful for your vote of confidence in our work by signing our shop Fair Trade Certified pledge.
Happy 2024 and warm wishes to you and your family.
With gratitude and admiration,
Founder & CEO
Fair Trade USA