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Fair Trade USA Updates Coffee Program

Nonprofit certification group creates coffee advisory board to improve transparency and sustainability
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Fair Trade
According to Fair Trade USA, 78% of the population trusts the Fair Trade Certified label.

Nonprofit group Fair Trade USA, which certifies Fair Trade products in North America, shared details of its new engagement and design “lab” that helps create more scalable and impactful certified coffee programs.

The updates come after the organization engaged with more than 500 roasters, importers and retailers and hundreds of producer organizations over the past several months through personal interviews and surveys. Based on stakeholder feedback, Fair Trade USA updated its Innovation for Impact Initiative with the help of social impact consulting firm IDEO.org.

[Read more: “SPECIAL REPORT: The Greener Grocer”]

"Our recent listening tour uncovered overwhelming demand across stakeholder groups for program renewal. Coffee producers want to sell more volume on Fair Trade Certified terms. They understand that price alone will not solve their problems. The industry wants greater transparency and data on impact. All stakeholders want a stronger response to climate change. Fair Trade USA will focus on innovation that addresses these core challenges faced by industry and producers," said Paul Rice, Fair Trade USA’s founder and CEO.

The enhanced initiative includes a new Coffee Impact Advisory Board, comprised of experts from the global coffee supply chain. The board is chaired by Rüdiger Meyer, founder and former CEO of FLOCERT, and includes the following members:

  • Lindsey Bolger, former SVP and managing director of Keurig Trading, USA
  • Jorge Cuevas, chief coffee officer at Sustainable Harvest Importers, USA
  • Guido Fernandez, EVP of the Colombian Coffee Federation Inc., Colombia
  • Carlos Murillo, president of EXPOCERT, a leading coffee broker based in Costa Rica and former board member of Utz Certified, Fairtrade Netherlands, and Fairtrade Germany
  • Alain Nzigamasabo, SVP and general merchandising manager for grocery and beverage at Sam's Club, USA
  • Abdias Ortiz, CEO of Aprocassi, Fair Trade coffee cooperative, Peru
  • Angela Pelaez, sustainability manager at RGC Coffee Americas, Colombia
  • Jérôme Perez, global head of sustainability at Nespresso, Switzerland
  • Ivania Rivera, senior coffee trader at Aldea Global, a Fair Trade coffee cooperative in Nicaragua
  • Matt Smith, EVP of supply chain and sustainability at Westrock Coffee, USA
  • Carlos Vargas, CEO of various Fair Trade Coffee Cooperatives, Costa Rica

According to the group, Fair Trade USA has delivered over $1 billion in impact to farmers and workers worldwide. "To generate the next billion, we must enlist the best creative thinking of our global stakeholder community to renew the Fair Trade Certified coffee program. The livelihoods of our producing families depend on it and I am excited to be able to contribute to that effort,” declared Meyer.

Certification is gaining a cache among shoppers. According to Fair Trade USA, more than 65% of consumers in the United States now recognize the Fair Trade Certified label and 78% of the general population trusts the seal. The group’s recent insights report also found that 45% of Millennials and 42% of Gen Z consumers would pay 20% more for Fair Trade Certified products.

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