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TransFair USA: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists

TransFair USA

  • Founded: 1998
  • Field: Trade and Economic Development
  • Budget: $2.1 million
"Before, I was just a farmer who loaded a box onto a train. That was my only responsibility. Through Fair Trade, I have become an international businessman."
-- Arturo Gomez, Coopetrabasur, Costa Rica

Arturo Gomez's comments reveal the transformative power of Fair Trade. As a banana farmer from Costa Rica, Arturo has spent many years fighting to provide for his family while struggling with falling commodity prices, environmental degradation, and an inaccessible global market. Fair Trade has provided a unique business opportunity for Arturo, and in doing so, has raised the standard of living in his family and community, and redefined his view of himself and his role in the world.

A Market-Based Approach to Sustainable Development: At a time when globalization pits wealthy nations against poor in a race to the bottom, Fair Trade is fostering a more cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship among consumers, businesses, and producers. By guaranteeing 1.1 million farmers in 48 of the world's poorest countries a fair price, decent working conditions, and access to pre-harvest credit, and by creating a financial incentive for ecologically sound agricultural practices, Fair Trade is promoting a more equitable and sustainable global economy. The key to Fair Trade is certification. As the only non-profit, independent certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States, TransFair USA's Fair Trade Certified label is the consumer's guarantee of equity, quality, and sustainability.

Commercial and Social Impact: Today, Fair Trade sales are growing faster than ever. Imports of Fair Trade coffee alone rose by an astonishing 91% in 2003, indicating a rapid growth in consumer awareness and demand for sustainable products. TransFair USA currently licenses 396 US companies to sell Fair Trade products in over 26,000 retail locations nationwide, including supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, and specialty food stores.

Since 1999, TransFair USA has certified over 60 million pounds of coffee, cocoa, tea, bananas, mangoes, pineapples, and grapes -- channeling more than $55 million in above-market pricing and additional income to farmers and farmworkers throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia. This means that every dollar invested in TransFair USA has yielded seven additional dollars for Fair Trade farmers, an impressive 700% Social Return on Investment. This indicator measures not only TransFair's tremendous social impact but also its organizational efficiency. Farmers and their communities have used this additional income to provide scholarships, build and maintain health clinics, and develop local business capacity through technical training and leadership workshops.

Ultimately, TransFair's President and CEO, Paul Rice, envisions a wide array of Fair Trade Certified goods that will allow consumers to lead a "Fair Trade lifestyle." The high quality of Fair Trade Certified products has emerged as a driving force behind the movement's success. Accolades and awards from gourmet chefs, specialty food magazines, and high-end restaurants have raised the profile of Fair Trade products within the US, and attracted the interest of major corporate entities. Industry giants like Starbucks and Procter & Gamble have launched gourmet lines of Fair Trade Certified coffee, reflecting a growing awareness of the linkage between product quality, consumer satisfaction, and the wellbeing of farmers in developing countries.

Building Win-Win Relationships: TransFair's commitment to fostering partnerships for social change -- whether with grassroots advocacy groups or multinational corporations -- has earned the organization credibility with leaders in both fields. While strongly committed to its principles of social and environmental justice, TransFair is equally determined to make Fair Trade more business-friendly and more in tune with the supply chain and profitability requirements of industry. By delivering premium products, TransFair enables consumers to make a difference in the quality of life of farmers and farmworkers without sacrificing quality taste.

At the heart of TransFair's mission is the belief that the benefits of global trade ought to be shared more equitably, and that doing so advances the interests of businesses, consumers, and producers. Fair Trade creates the opportunity for large businesses to increase their profits through socially responsible business practices, for consumers to vote with every purchase for a more equitable world, and for farmers, like Arturo, to view themselves not as an anonymous cog in the world market, but as a valuable contributor to a global society.

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The above information was provided by the profiled organization.