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Social Capitalists: TransFair USA

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

TransFair USA

Oakland, CA
Year founded: 1998
CEO: Paul Rice
www.transfairusa.org

For farmers and farm workers throughout the developing world who produce the products that Americans enjoy every day--coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, rice, vanilla and fresh tropical fruit--low prices, market volatility, lack of access to pre-harvest financing and isolation can create a cycle of poverty. These farmers often cannot recover their cost of production or earn a high enough wage to invest in their futures. Families, communities and the environment all suffer as a result.

TransFair USA is the exclusive third-party Fair Trade certifier in the United States. The mission of TransFair USA is to build a more equitable and sustainable model of international trade that benefits producers, consumers, industry and the Earth. TransFair achieves this mission by building capacity, certifying and promoting Fair Trade products, and providing producers with the tools and resources needed to succeed in the global marketplace.

Fair Trade guarantees that farmers and farm workers receive a fair price, facilitates community investment, ensures sustainable agriculture, and assists farmers to compete effectively in global trade. This allows farmers to feed and care for their families, send their children to school, and avoid cost-cutting practices that sacrifice quality. The result is an upward rather than downward wage spiral. Keeping farmers on their land and supporting sustainable agriculture also maintains biodiversity and provides shelter for migratory birds. Through Fair Trade, TransFair USA has enabled farmers in some of the most historically disadvantaged communities in the developing world to earn approximately $80 million in additional income.

Fair Trade certification is considered the "gold standard" in ethical sourcing, due to high social, economic and environmental standards, and an equally high level of oversight. For consumers, Fair Trade certification represents choice and transparency in their purchase decisions, and Fair Trade's "higher bar" has translated into unmatched consumer interest. For retailers, manufacturers and distributors, Fair Trade is both socially responsible and good business.

Augustin Rutarauisha is a coffee farmer in Rwanda, and his story epitomizes Fair Trade's unique impact. The dramatic improvements to his family's quality of life do not come from charity or from international government aid, but from Augustin's own business, as a member of an export cooperative that is a thriving international enterprise thanks to Fair Trade. Augustin shares this success story with 1.5 million other farmers and farm workers around the developing world: from tea pickers in India, to banana growers in Ecuador, to cacao farmers in Côte d'Ivoire.

The added revenue from Fair Trade also funds sustainable community development initiatives implemented by democratic farmers' associations, including scholarships, healthcare and environmental restoration projects, improving the lives of 5 million beneficiaries in 60 developing nations.

In the United States, Fair Trade is growing rapidly. TransFair USA now works with over 600 companies making Fair Trade Certified coffee, tea, chocolate, fruit, rice, sugar and vanilla available to U.S. consumers at over 40,000 retail locations nationwide. Fair Trade products can be found everywhere from your local coffeehouse, to major chains like Costco and Sam's Club, and even in some varieties of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. These companies and their customers are helping TransFair USA prove that Fair Trade works as well for consumers and industry as it does for farmers. TransFair USA's goal is to build on the momentum Fair Trade has achieved in the U.S., and extend its benefits on an unprecedented scale. This is being accomplished by reaching out to new mainstream retail outlets, new products and new producer communities around the world.

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