APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Through a comprehensive capacity-building program called Co-op Link, Fair Trade USA will directly invest in Fair Trade cooperatives on a large scale to make them stronger and more competitive. Working closely with industry and NGO partners, Co-op Link aims to help hundreds of cooperatives access short and long-term capital as well as vital management training to enhance profitability. Co-op Link will also help farmers identify new Fair Trade buyers and develop stronger commercial relationships with the U.S. market.
Fair Trade USA will expand Fair Trade to include previously excluded communities. This process starts with the development of new Fair Trade standards and compliance criteria for large estates in coffee and other key products. With new standards in place, leading estates committed to sustainability and community development will be certified and become part of the Fair Trade system. Partnering with NGOs and labor organizations, a technical assistance program will be developed to train farm workers in workplace safety and health, labor rights, and environmental stewardship. Training will assist farmers and workers in organizing Fair Trade project committees to manage community development funds earned by selling on Fair Trade terms. Leading impact assessment organizations will help measure the impact of these efforts in terms of increased income, educational opportunities, better health, and other social indicators.
Consumer demand and involvement in Fair Trade are essential to the success of the model. In alliance with leading brands, retailers, and NGOs, consumer awareness campaigns will be launched that combine grassroots organizing with social media, advertising, point-of-purchase promotions, and traditional news media. Success will be measured based on consumer awareness, sales, and impact data.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
Sustainable Farming Communities: Co-op Link
1.) Access to Capital: Fair Trade USA has already begun talks with several financial institutions operating in the SME market, and they have expressed significant interest in investing in the co-op sector. During 2012, Fair Trade USA will translate this interest into firm financial commitments.
2.) Training and Capacity Building: In partnership with the Latin American & Caribbean Network for Small Fair Trade Producers (CLAC), the AVINA Foundation, and local service providers, Fair Trade USA has been creating training programs focused on financial management, export operations, and price risk management in the face of current market volatility. Fair Trade USA will implement the first of these training programs in Colombia and Guatemala from September to December 2011. In 2012, Fair Trade USA will expand these programs to other countries around the world.
3.) Quality and Productivity: Fair Trade USA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Global Coffee Quality Research Initiative to help small farmers improve coffee productivity and quality and withstand climate change. Specific programs will be launched in 2012. Over the next two years, these programs are expected to reach over 400,000 small farmers and lead to direct impacts on cooperative profitability, family farmer income, and community development.
Strengthen Farming Communities: Community Development
In 2012, Fair Trade USA will generate at least one new partnership with a social entrepreneur or development agency that has created an innovative approach to the classic problems of water, health education, or food security. Fair Trade USA and its partners will work with at least one cooperative to pilot a program which could be expanded to more cooperatives and communities over time.
Innovating to Include More People: Extending the Benefits of Fair Trade
From September to December 2011, Fair Trade USA will conduct research and modify standards so they can be applied to producer groups like estate workers and small-holder farmers unable to access the support of a cooperative. These groups have often been excluded from the Fair Trade Network. Fair Trade USA will identify best-practice estates in Africa and Latin America in coffee and other key product sectors and develop farm worker training curricula and materials. By the end of the year, Fair Trade USA will have piloted these new standards on at least one estate. Over the next two years, the project seeks to directly benefit over 50,000 farm workers with greater household income, better working conditions, and community development funding.
Igniting Consumer Involvement
1.) Growing the Grassroots Movement: At the heart of Fair Trade USA's consumer engagement strategy is the Fair Trade grassroots movement led by the national Fair Trade Towns and Universities campaigns. For the activist consumer, Fair Trade represents a model of sustainable consumption and positive community action that leads to immediate impact for farming communities. This fall, the first national Fair Trade Towns organizers' conference will take place and bring 250 volunteer organizers together to train and collaborate. Over the next two years, there will be active campaigns in over 300 towns and universities.
2.) Partnering with Stakeholders to Raise Awareness: Complementing grassroots efforts, Fair Trade USA has partnered with hundreds of brands, retailers, and NGOs to launch the biggest-ever national awareness campaign for Fair Trade Month in October 2011. This annual promotional campaign promises to gain a whole new level of industry involvement and consumer impact and will be based on Fair Trade USA's new messaging platform, a campaign-specific website, social media efforts, and investment in advertising and media. Marketing materials for business partners, NGOs, and consumer advocates are being created that can be downloaded digitally and customized as necessary to educate diverse audiences about the positive impact of Fair Trade products. In October, a Fair Trade Finder application is being introduced for Facebook and mobile phones to help consumers search for, discover, and share Fair Trade products in their communities.
Ultimately, Fair Trade USA intends to double the number of farming families in the global Fair Trade network as well as the volume of Fair Trade products imported into the United States by 2015. By doubling volume, the income of participating farmers and farm workers will dramatically increase and livelihoods will be improved through the community development premiums paid by U.S. buyers.
At a relatively small scale, Fair Trade has proven to be a powerful market-based approach to poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Fair Trade is also a successful model of sustainable consumption. Increasingly, consumers are looking for the Fair Trade certified label for high-quality products that improve lives and protect the environment. In the past decade, Fair Trade USA and its 800 partners have generated over $220 million in additional income for family farmers worldwide through the sales of Fair Trade certified products. This has enabled significant community investment and impact in education, healthcare, housing, potable water, and environmental conservation. However, more can and must be done. Today, Fair Trade products represent only a small fraction of the total U.S. market. With growing interest from consumers and the business community, Fair Trade is poised to go to scale, promising to help lift millions more out of poverty.
Several challenges must be overcome in order to expand Fair Trade's positive impact. First, more must be done to strengthen farming communities. Farming cooperatives that produce and export on behalf of their members are the backbone of the Fair Trade model today, representing over 1.2 million farming families in 70 countries worldwide. Despite growing demand for their products and the willingness of U.S. buyers to pay premium prices for Fair Trade certified harvests, many cooperative enterprises need greater access to short-term working capital as well as investment capital for new infrastructure and productivity improvements. Fair Trade USA estimates this need to be about $300 million annually. In addition, cooperatives need technical assistance, management training, and market linkage support in order to take full advantage of market opportunities. Similarly, to strengthen farming communities at the community level, Fair Trade USA must develop new partnerships with leading social entrepreneurs and development agencies that have created innovative approaches to the classic problems of water, health education, and food security.
Second, Fair Trade USA must make the benefits of Fair Trade available to more people around the world. In most product categories, Fair Trade certification and benefits are limited to a single producer group - small farm owners organized in cooperatives. Millions of $3/day farm workers, as well as small farmers unable to access the support of a cooperative, are largely excluded from Fair Trade. Today's model largely ignores the plight of farm workers in the U.S. and 'sweatshop' workers in the manufacturing sector. This limits the relevance of Fair Trade for many U.S. companies who would like to implement large-scale sustainable solutions covering their entire global supply chains.
Ultimately, consumer awareness, demand, and involvement are the keys to growth of this market-based strategy for sustainability. Fair trade was launched in Europe over 50 years ago, leading to consumer awareness of over 80 percent today. In the U.S., Fair Trade is a much newer concept and has only 34 percent consumer awareness. Based on the idea that the U.S. consumer can become one of the world's greatest forces for change, Fair Trade USA must ignite consumer involvement, empowering the public to make every purchase matter and help to create a better world through responsible shopping.