A Letter from our Founder and CEO

Reflection, gratitude, and hope from the desk of Paul Rice

Dear Friend of Fair Trade,

2020 was a challenging year for all of us. We all have friends or family members who were hurt by Covid and its economic fallout. And around the world, the crisis continues, reminding us of how fortunate we are and calling us to do more.

Through all the past year’s turmoil and heartbreak, we fought on for the better world we all envision. I am so proud to share that Fair Trade USA delivered an estimated $100 million in financial impact to farmers and workers around the world in 2020, one of the most impactful years in our 22-year history. You, our industry and philanthropic partners, made this possible by standing firm in your commitment to the global fair trade community. For this, I am inspired and forever grateful.

From the outset of the crisis, we searched for opportunities to innovate in order to continue our vital services to producers in global supply chains. For example, in the face of significant health risks to farmers and workers posed by the pandemic, we implemented remote audits and created digital worker training and support programs. We also developed a Covid safety and prevention video for farmworkers that rolled out in seven languages.

More strategically, we launched a groundbreaking new digital platform that will enable fair trade farmer groups and U.S. buyers to share information, expand sales and tell a richer impact story to the final consumer. To date, we’ve already signed up 250 producer organizations representing over 500,000 farmers around the world. These early innovations in tech-enabled, data-rich, remotely-delivered services yielded valuable lessons that will inform how we develop a more scalable service model in 2021 and beyond.

Ultimately, the commitment and loyalty of partners like you helped us deliver vital support to essential workers and farmers in their time of greatest need. Through fair trade, your financial impact last year made possible literally thousands of life-changing (and life-saving) community projects around the world. In Colombia, coffee farmers invested Fair Trade Premium funds in masks and Covid mitigation training. In Vietnam, apparel factory workers used their premiums to distribute Hepatitis B vaccines. At the first U.S. Fair Trade Certified™ farm in Arizona, Gabriela Garcia and other tomato farmworkers voted to use their premium funds to install solar panels on their homes. She and her co-workers now proudly talk of being climate friendly while lowering their monthly electric bills, freeing up household income for health, education and savings. Together – one cup of coffee, one shirt, one tomato at a time – we are helping keep essential workers and their families safe, healthy and hopeful.

Results are in from the first quarter of the year and I am proud to share some of the buzz floating around our virtual office at Fair Trade USA. Consumer awareness of Fair Trade is at 63% and continues to grow. It’s no surprise that leading retailers like Costco, Whole Foods, Target, Sam’s Club and Kroger saw dramatic increases in their Fair Trade Certified sales in 2020 and Q1 2021. I am especially excited to announce that just a few weeks ago, we proudly launched the first fair trade dairy product in the world with our partner Chobani. This means that, for the first time ever, dairy farmers and farmworkers in the U.S. have access to the unique benefits and protections of fair trade. Meanwhile, we are poised to launch our largest technology transformation initiative ever. Overall, this year is shaping up to be one of unprecedented innovation, growth and impact.

As John Mackey of Whole Foods recently told me, “The global pandemic shows us that fair trade is more relevant than ever before. Fair trade brings stability to farmers and peace of mind to consumers. Our customers want to buy ethically-sourced products. The Fair Trade Certified seal empowers them to do just that.”

In all my 30+ years as a fair trader, I have never felt more fired up than I am today. Together, we can and must expand the transformative impact of our movement to millions more farmers, workers, companies and consumers around the world. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the promise and potential that you bring to our mission.

With gratitude and admiration,

Paul Rice 

Founder & CEO

Fair Trade USA