Fair Trade Certified and the Sustainability Journey
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Fair Trade Certified and the Sustainability Journey

Abby Ayers
Abby Ayers, Senior Director of Business Development, Retail Partnerships

Founded in 1998, Fair Trade USATM is the leading 501(c) (3) nonprofit, third party certifier of fair trade products in North America. The industry leading sustainable sourcing model promotes production practices that preserve the environment, enhance resilience to climate change, and protect the health and quality of life for farmers, fishers, workers, their families, and their communities. Progressive Grocer asked Abby Ayers, Senior Director of Business Development, Retail Partnerships, to discuss Fair Trade USA’s mission and to explain why it is important for grocery retailers.

Progressive Grocer: What role does Fair Trade USA play in the sustain- ability journey, particularly as it pertains to grocery retailing?

Abby Ayers: Consumers today are demanding sustainably sourced fresh goods, which is increasing the need for resilient, reliable supply chains. Fair Trade USA provides the business training and environmental knowledge and facilitates the capital investment that empowers producers worldwide to create high-quality products. We also certify and promote fair trade products from those producers.

We embrace a perspective on holistic sourcing that delivers shared value to suppliers, retailers, and the end consumer by reframing sustainability as an issue that encompasses social, economic, and environmental sustainability — not one hyper-focused on the environment alone. Our approach is to prevent and/or reduce risk to local environments through legal compliance and management systems; to empower and build the capacity of farmers, fishers, and workers to produce sustainably; and to ensure the resourcing needed to support their sustainability journeys.

PG: Why it is important to consider all three perspectives?

AA: There are three legs of the sustainability stool, and they are completely interdependent. Until social and economic sustainability catch up to environmental, we have not built a truly sustainable movement. Resilient supply chains begin with resilient communities. Investments in programs that deliver more value to producers and workers increase productivity and worker retention for suppliers, as well as the high-quality, ethical sourcing that consumers expect from the retailers they patronize.

Retailers and their suppliers have an important role to play in creating
a truly sustainable movement, too. They must discuss how they can collaborate to implement solutions that will unlock the promise of this holistic approach and the ROI it can deliver throughout the entire supply chain.

PG: Can carrying more sustainable, ethically sourced products really have a noticeable, positive impact on ROI?

AA: Absolutely! And post-pandemic data show why. Consumers are more ethically and environmentally conscious now than ever before — and that is impacting their purchasing decisions. Here are just a few figures: An impressive 86% of consumers want more sustainable and equitable products; three in four consumers consider sustainability when choosing between brands; nearly 57% are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative impact to the environment — and that jumps to 77% among those who say sustainability is important for them. Traceability is important to 73% of consumers, too — and of those, 71% would pay a premium for it.

Fair Trade Certified

PG: So, consumers say they want sustainable, ethically sourced product. But do they look for products that are Fair Trade CertifiedTM?

AA: Fair Trade Certified products are produced according to rigorous standards that protect the well-being of farmers, fishers, and workers. Our standards set the global benchmark for sustainable sourcing, strengthen brand trust, and build consumer loyalty. U.S. consumers increasingly know and trust the Fair Trade Certified seal: 66% of the general population of consumers recognize it and it is the most widely recognized fair trade seal in the United States.

By putting our seal on goods made responsibly, fairly, and sustainably, we make it easier for suppliers and retailers to offer the kind of products that that align with the values of today’s sustainability minded consumers.