Who We Are

Our mission

Fair Trade USA enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, fishermen, consumers, industry, and the earth. We achieve our mission by certifying and promoting Fair Trade products.

why fair trade?

Our story

It all started when a one-way ticket to Nicaragua in the summer of 1983 turned into an 11-year stay. During that time, Fair Trade USA founder Paul Rice helped recruit 24 brave coffee farmers to agree to sell their coffee on Fair Trade terms. The outcome was astounding. After the first harvest that year, farmers received a dramatically higher income, enabling them to invest in homes, electricity, and running water—things they had previously been unable to afford. Over the next few years, Paul witnessed what would come to be known as the Fair Trade Difference unfold in the lives of coffee farmers in Nicaragua as that group of 24 farmers grew to include more than 3,000 families. This life-changing experience led him to return to the United States and launch Fair Trade USA in 1998. We were a small but mighty group, working in partnership with a handful of brave farmers and a few mission-driven coffee companies who were out to change the world.


Our one-room converted warehouse in Oakland (which we fondly refer to as our first global headquarters) wasn’t much, but it was the beginning of something powerful. Some people called us crazy, because we actually believed that rural farmers and workers around the world could learn to navigate the global market and empower themselves on a journey out of poverty. We believed that business could be a major force for change, creating “shared value” and a better life for farming families. We envisioned consumers awakening to their power to choose a better world through their everyday purchases. In short, we had faith that the Fair Trade movement would become part of a much larger shift toward Conscious Capitalism. Today, Fair Trade has grown into a leading market-based model of sustainable production, trade, and consumption. In 2016, the sale of Fair Trade Certified™ products in the U.S. reached an estimated $6 billion. That same year, we certified the first farm in the U.S.—a milestone in the Fair Trade movement that has and will continue to improve the livelihoods and working conditions of thousands of migrant farmworker families.


The success of core products like coffee has attracted pioneering brands and retailers in other industries including apparel, home goods, and fisheries. Together, we are innovating the Fair Trade model to expand impact to new communities. Fair Trade products are available online and in grocery stores throughout North America, with a growing network including more than 1,250 companies committed to a world-changing way of doing business. Most importantly, we have generated cumulative impact of $551 million in additional income for farmers and workers worldwide.


We are truly grateful to everyone in the Fair Trade movement – farmers, workers, companies, consumers, philanthropists, and activists – for partnering to grow the impact of Fair Trade. Together, we are writing the next chapter of the Fair Trade Difference.


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.