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Social Capitalists: TransFair USA

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

TransFair USA

Paul Rice, president and CEO
Oakland, California
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For farmers and farm workers throughout the developing world who produce the products that Americans enjoy every day -- coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, rice, vanilla, fresh tropical fruit and flowers -- 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 certifier for Fair Trade Certified™ products in the United States. TransFair USA's mission 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 Certified products, and providing producers with the tools and resources needed to succeed in the global marketplace.

Fair Trade Certified 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 Certified, TransFair USA has enabled farmers in some of the most historically disadvantaged communities in the developing world to earn more than $91 million in cumulative additional income.

Fair Trade Certified 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 Certified represents choice and transparency in their purchase decisions, and Fair Trade Certified’s “higher bar” has translated into unmatched consumer interest. For retailers, manufacturers and distributors, Fair Trade Certified is both socially responsible and good business.

With TransFair's newest product category, Fair Trade Certified Flowers, the Fair Trade Certified label guarantees that thousands of flower workers in developing countries, the majority of whom are women, receive fair wages; protective gear when working around flowers; training on safe handling of agrochemicals; education and child care; and paid vacation, maternity and sick leave. They also receive a premium of approximately 10 percent on each sale to invest in community and business development projects.

The added revenue from all Fair Trade Certified products 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 more than 700 companies making Fair Trade Certified coffee, tea, chocolate, fruit, rice, sugar, vanilla and flowers available to U.S. consumers at more than 40,000 retail locations nationwide. Fair Trade Certified 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 Certified works as well for consumers and industry as it does for farmers. TransFair USA’s goal is to build on the momentum Fair Trade Certified products have 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.