What the Environmental Connection Between Planet and People Means for GROCERY RETAILERS
Leslie Simmons, Senior Director of Business Development, Fresh, Fair Trade USA
Sustainability is at the forefront of many companies’ initiatives today. Fair Trade USA — the leading 501(c) (3) nonprofit, third party certifier of fair trade products in North America — is one of them. Progressive Grocer spoke with Leslie Simmons, Fair Trade USA’s Senior Director of Business Development, Fresh, to learn how the organization is working to foster production practices that both enhance people’s lives and ensure the health of the planet.
Progressive Grocer: Let’s talk about the interconnectedness between people and the environment.
Leslie Simmons: People and our planet are intertwined in such an intricate way that the livelihoods of individuals and entire communities are inextricably linked to the environment. The production of the food and goods that society relies on every day impacts the environment in myriad ways. Likewise, shifts in the natural environment — extreme weather, for example — impact society because they threaten the long-term viability of things like agricultural production.
PG: How does Fair Trade USA work to further sustainability and its relationship to people’s everyday lives?
LS: Fair Trade USA fosters production practices that preserve the environment, enhance resilience to climate change, and protect the health and quality of life of farmers, fishers, workers, their families, and their communities. Preventing and reducing direct harm to the local environment from production activities is the focus across all of our programs.
For example, Fair Trade USA’s Agricultural Production Standard starts with good practices that minimize environmental impacts on natural ecosystems and improving the resiliency of crop production to both preserve the natural environment, as well as ensure economic viability for farmers. Standards include requirements related to deforestation, land management, and proper disposal of waste, hazardous materials, and wastewater. Requirements address the importance of identifying and managing risks, such as the risk of contamination of local waterways.
We empower and build capacity with farmers, fishers, and workers to produce sustainably. Unlocking access and opportunity is at the heart of the fair trade model. We seek to ensure individuals have the capacity and knowledge to safeguard the natural environment while enhancing production.
And we provide funds to support those sustainability journeys through the Community Development Fund, which provides money that industry and brand partners pay to producers of fair trade products. In 2021, more than 75 million U.S. dollars were paid into these funds, which can and have been used to support a wide range of projects related to the environment.
In 2022, we reached a significant milestone by exceeding $1B in financial impact to farmers, fishers, workers, and communities around the world over the 25-year history of our organization.
PG: Why is this important for grocery retailers?
LS: Consumers care about the environment and are more and more willing to support companies that do, too. In our Consumer Insights Report, new research shows that consumers increasingly see fair trade as one of the easiest ways to improve lives, communities, and the environment through their purchases. Seventy-eight percent of the general population trust the Fair Trade Certified label and more consumers recognize the label than any other social certification. In fact, 55 percent of Millennials and 48 percent of Gen Zs — even with inflation — say they would pay 20 percent more for a Fair Trade Certified product.1
12022 Consumer Insights Report, Fair Trade USA, January 2023