Board of Directors
We're guided by a team of leaders who are united under our mission to alleviate global poverty and promote sustainable development. Combined with the collective wisdom and constructive feedback of our Board of Directors and Advisory Council, these individuals enable us to deliver more impact to more communities around the world.
Board of Directors
Janet Nezhad Band
Janet Nezhad Band has more than two decades of leadership experience in philanthropy and development with particular expertise in strategy, volunteer team building, donor engagement, solicitation, and stewardship.
She is the Chair of Fair Trade’s Development Committee and sits on its Executive Committee. Ms. Band is a Member of the Harvard College Fund Executive Committee, an Elected Director of the Harvard Alumni Association, and a Board Member of the Harvard Club of New York Foundation. Ms. Band also serves on the Advisory Council of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.
Ms. Band clerked for the Honorable William C. Conner in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York prior to joining the litigation practice at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. She left Paul, Weiss to join MTV Networks as lead counsel for Nickelodeon’s off-channel businesses and the “Nick Jr.” programming block.
Ms. Band received her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, her J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School, and an A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard College. In 1984 she was a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt.
Ricardo is Chief Commercial Officer and third-generation co-owner of Wholesum, family owned and operated farms that grow and market certified organic produce in the US and Mexico. Motivated by a sincere belief in stewardship, Ricardo’s efforts have positioned Wholesum as a pioneer in organic growing methods, ethical farming, and responsible sourcing.
Ricardo spearheads Wholesum’s Sales and Marketing efforts through deep industry knowledge and vision. His triple bottom line approach addresses Wholesum’s responsibility to the people who grow and buy its produce, the one planet we all share, and the profits that enable the continued growth of the company. These commitments are exemplified not only by Wholesum’s organic growing methods, which eliminate synthetic chemicals to grow vegetables that are safe for both farm workers and consumers, but also through equitable labor practices and environmental protection. Wholesum first began certifying its operations in Mexico under fair trade in 2011 and in 2016 became the first Fair Trade Certified vegetable farm in the United Sates. In Ricardo’s tenure there, Wholesum has also become a leader in environmental sustainability by making investments in solar energy, irrigation efficiency projects, and promoting biodiversity at the farms.
As company leader and fair trade ambassador, Ricardo has worked to create a market for fair trade produce by educating retailers and connecting consumers with farm workers through authentic story telling. He has also propelled the fair trade movement by partnering with growers of the same vision and social and environmental commitments.
To serve his local community, Ricardo serves as a board member of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, an organization that fosters trade between US and Mexico. He is also a volunteer at the Kino Border Initiative helping migrants in the Sonoran Desert by feeding and clothing those in need.
Ricardo holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. He resides in Nogales, Arizona with his family.
Robin Evitts has over 30 years’ experience solving costly business problems and managing risk – often innovative “firsts” – with emphasis on global organizations in consumer products, retail, social sector and K-12 education. Currently, she serves as a hands-on advisor to two women-owned start-ups: as the Treasurer (chief financial officer) for a fastener distributor, and as Partner/Chief Operating Officer for Reach Partners LLC, a transformation consulting business.
Robin has a long history of advising and working with organizations on critical finance, corporate governance, and IT initiatives. As a partner at Deloitte, she led the enterprise risk management practice for retail/consumer goods companies, advising Boards and senior management on corporate governance matters including Board governance, internal controls and compliance efforts. Prior to that, she audited the financial statements of mid-market and Fortune 1000 companies. More recently, Robin was a managing director at Alvarez & Marsal, where she consulted with companies on major transformation initiatives and financial management issues.
In addition to her consulting roles, Robin served for 7 years as a corporate executive with The Clorox Company, first as the Chief Audit Executive and then as Chief Information Officer. She was responsible for driving the technology strategy for the company and delivered a major organizational transformation of IT services that improved service and efficiency, while reducing costs. She also provided strategic leadership to corporate governance and compliance programs, executed operational audits and investigations across the company, and led a finance transformation effort.
Robin holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from University of Illinois and is a licensed CPA (inactive).
In addition to her work with Fair Trade USA, Robin is currently actively involved with Girls Inc. of Alameda County (Oakland) as the Board President and Great Minds in STEM as Board Treasurer. Robin has also held industry leadership roles with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) Information Technology Committee and the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA).
Sherri Pittman Howard
Sherri Pittman Howard brings over three decades of strategy and leadership development experience to her work as an executive coach, facilitator, and strategic advisor.
Sherri thrives on the advancement and growth of others, leveraging her training and experience to develop stronger, more effective leaders. Sherri’s coaching work includes leadership assessment, skills building, executive management, team dynamics, and organization culture. Sherri is an experienced facilitator noted for her ability to create safe space for authentic sharing, deep relationship building and group problem-solving.
An accomplished strategist, Sherri is equally at ease leading Fortune 500 teams through complex planning sessions and helping startup executives navigate the complexities of early stage growth. She is an interpersonal dynamics facilitator at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, facilitator for Opportunity Collaboration, an international poverty alleviation conference, and is a co-producer of the Social Venture Institute – Women conference.
Previously, Sherri served as Managing Director and Co-Lead of the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF), focused on advancing an inclusive clean economy through support of innovative entrepreneurs. Prior to CalCEF, Sherri was Executive Vice President and San Francisco Office Lead of Metropolitan Group. During her tenure, Sherri provided strategy and organization development consultation to environmental and social justice clients such as Sierra Club, Plan USA International and the U.S. Forest Service. Previous roles include: VP of Marketing at solar startup, Sungevity and senior leadership positions at Levi Strauss & Co and Hanesbrands. Sherri holds a Master of Arts in Culture & Spirituality from Holy Names University, an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Florida A&M University.
Deeply engaged in social impact, Sherri serves on the board of Mal Warwick/Donor Digital, Fair Trade USA and Social Venture Circle. Sherri resides in Oakland, California with her husband and two cats and is a foodie, yoga practitioner, and avid jazz fan.
Carlos Vargas Leitón
Carlos Vargas Leitón was born into a peasant family in the northern mountains of Costa Rica. Being one of 12 children, he grew up with the experience of struggling to meet basic needs. Despite their hardships, Carlos’s family always prioritized schooling and professional development.
Carlos has been involved in coffee cooperatives in Costa Rica for over 40 years, with major focuses on the strategy, finance, and marketing of coffee. Carlos holds two bachelor’s degrees in International Commerce and Finance from the UIA of San José, Costa Rica, as well as a master’s degree in Management from the Universidad Inter América (now Universidad Latina). He has completed specialized courses in the areas of Senior Management, Management with Leadership, Management and Finance, and Consulting at the INCAE Business School.
From 2000-2001, Carlos was part of a team of three people who spearheaded the process to reform the National Coffee Law in Costa Rica. He also was part of the group that worked to make the resources of the Banking Development System reach small producers and placed Coopetarrazú as one of the main operators of the system.
Since 2004, Carlos has been a member of the CoopeTarrazú Management Team and has been General Manager since 2017. This cooperative currently processes 15% of Costa Rica’s production, with over 4,500 small affiliated producers. The cooperative is one of the main suppliers of Fair Trade Certified coffee.
Carlos previously served as a Fair Trade USA Member of the Board of Directors from 2003 to 2013, then moved to its Advisory Council. He was elected to re-join the Board in October 2019.
Paul opened our first "national headquarters” — a one-room office in a converted warehouse in downtown Oakland — in late 1998. Since launching the Fair Trade Certified label, Paul has pushed to mainstream the Fair Trade movement and expand its impact on farmers by innovating the model, partnering with over 800 U.S. companies and expanding certification across new product categories. This vision and leadership helped push U.S. retail sales of Fair Trade products to an estimated $1.5 billion in 2011, enabling millions of small farmers and workers to live better.
Paul came to Fair Trade by way of the mountainous Segovias region of northern Nicaragua, where he served for 11 years, organizing cooperatives and training farmers. While in Nicaragua, Paul founded and led PRODECOOP, the country's first Fair Trade, organic coffee export cooperative, which introduced him to the transformational power of Fair Trade. Subsequently, Paul served as strategy consultant and development advisor to 22 cooperative enterprises throughout Latin America and Asia, helping them become more competitive, democratic and self-reliant. Paul’s first-hand experience over the last 30 years in the areas of global supply chain transparency, social auditing, sustainable agriculture, and cooperative enterprise development is unique in the certification world.
Paul has received numerous honors and awards for his pioneering work as a social entrepreneur in the Fair Trade movement. In 2000 he received the prestigious international Ashoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurship. In 2001 Paul was recognized by the AVINA Foundation for his "leadership for change.” Paul was honored by the Klaus Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and the World Economic Forum as one of the world's top 40 Social Entrepreneurs in 2002. Fast Company magazine named Paul “Social Capitalist of the Year” four years in a row (2005-08). Paul also received the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and has been honored by the Clinton Global Initiative for his leadership in Fair Trade. Paul holds an Economics and Political Science degree from Yale University and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
Larry Ruff is a Board Director, Strategic Advisor, former CEO, and former Chief Strategy & Global Marketing Officer. He has 35+ years’ experience working with start-ups, small, medium, and large for-profit corporations, major US and global brands, social entrepreneurs, higher education, and a variety of other non-profit organizations.
Larry is a passionate advocate for social impact, environmental stewardship, economic justice, and sustainable development.
Larry is Vice Chair of the Board for Fair Trade USA and has served on the Fair Trade USA Board since 2014 and is currently a member of the Fair Trade USA Board's Executive and Nominating & Governance Committees. He served as Chair of the Fair Trade USA Board's Governance Committee from 2015-2019. Larry is also a member of the Board of Directors for EatREAL.org, a social enterprise focused on helping to fuel food system transformation by promoting food and beverage options that are good for people’s health, the environment, and animal welfare. He served as CEO of EatREAL.org from October 2017 to February 2019.
Since 2013, Larry has been working as a Strategic Advisor to several Silicon Valley-based modern marketing start-ups, Social Enterprise organizations and major brands. Earlier in his career, Larry held a variety of leadership positions with Levi Strauss & Company - including Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer, Global Marketing Officer and VP, Marketing for Levi's Europe. During his time with Levi's, Larry and his team received numerous awards for product and marketing innovation, brand-building, corporate social responsibility and sustainability. He began his business career in Brand Management with The Procter & Gamble Company's Food & Beverage Division.
Larry received a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from Rutgers College and an MBA from Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management. He is also a graduate of Columbia University's Digital Marketing Strategy program.
Liesel Pritzker Simmons
Liesel Pritzker Simmons is Co-Founder and Principal of Blue Haven Initiative, an innovative family office that invests for profit and with purpose. An early leader in the impact investing space, BHI manages an international portfolio of diversified investments in traditional asset classes, groundbreaking impact business models, and nonprofit organizations. It applies a rigorous portfolio-management lens to its investments with the goal of generating measurable financial returns as well as societal and environmental benefits.
Liesel is also Co-Founder of IDP Foundation, a private Chicago-based foundation focused on achieving universal primary education. There, she helped create the IDP Rising Schools Program, which leverages microfinance networks to empower nearly 450 low-cost private schools — established and managed by local entrepreneurs — in some of the least-developed regions of the world.
Liesel is a sought-after speaker on the topic of impact investing. She serves on for-profit and nonprofit boards and investment committees of organizations including Impact Assets, Synergos, Toniic, Eco-Post, and the ImPact, a network of families committed to the conscientious stewardship of wealth. Liesel attended Columbia University in New York City, where she studied African History. She lives in the Boston area with her husband, Ian Simmons, and their daughter.
Robert P. Stiller
Robert Stiller, long time entrepreneur and Fair Trade enthusiast, brings with him over 40 years of business, fundraising, and coffee industry experience to the Fair Trade USA Board of Directors. After making his first fortune as the Co-founder of E-Z Wider doublewide rolling papers, Robert entered the coffee business by founding Green Mountain Coffee Roaster (GMCR) in Vermont in 1981, taking it public in 1993. He served as its Chairman, President, and CEO from 1981-2007, when he hired his successor and remained Chairman until 2012. He later retired and was made Chairman Emeritus.
Over the years, Robert Stiller led a number of key initiatives with a very inclusive, innovative culture that helped propel the growth of GMCR. For example, he spearheaded investment in Keurig in 1998, and purchased it outright in 2006 to transform the company from a regionally recognized specialty coffee roaster to a leader in the emerging single-serve beverage category in North America. GMCR became Keurig Green Mountain in 2014.
Under his leadership, the company also received numerous international accolades for its environmentally and socially responsible business practices. Since 2010, Fair Trade USA has recognized GMCR as the world’s largest purchaser of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee. It was one of the first national brands to bring Fair Trade coffee to mainstream U.S. consumers in 2000. It also donates 5% of its operating income on charitable causes, and offsets 100% of its direct greenhouse gas emissions. Today Robert serves on the Board of the Norton Museum and is Chairman of the Board of AgNovos, a medical device company. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Forbes in 2001 and helped establish the Stiller School of Business at Champlain College to include many of the management techniques that made GMCR so successful.
James D. White is an experienced Board Director and CEO. He currently serves as Board Chairman at Fair Trade USA, as well as on the Boards of Adtalem Global Education, Panera Bread, Schnuck’s Supermarkets, and Simply Good Foods. He is the former Chairman, President and CEO of Jamba Juice, and has held senior executive positions at several Fortune 500 companies, including Gillette, Safeway Stores, and Nestlé-Purina. James has been appointed to 12 corporate Boards; he has chaired four Boards and has served on all committees. His nonprofit Board work includes his current position of Chairman at Directors Academy (where he is also a founder) and Board advisor to Ocean Spray, as well as past Board positions at NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center, the Organic Center, and the Network for Executive Women. James is also a speaker on Board governance and is a CEO coach.