It has been an exciting year for us as we prepared for the International Fresh Produce Association’s Global Produce and Floral Show and the official launch of our evolved Fair Trade USA™ produce program. As the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in North America, we are taking a significant step to safeguard the integrity and sustainability of the perishable supply chain while scaling positive impact for farmworkers across the globe. Our organization has unveiled its revamped Fair Trade Certified™ produce program, designed to scale volumes and thus increase beneficial impacts for the frontline workforce and help retailers reduce risk in their supply chain and add value for their customers.
The global supply chain for produce has faced numerous challenges in recent years. From the impacts of climate change on crop yields to labor issues and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for a more resilient and equitable supply chain is paramount. For 25 years, Fair Trade USA has been committed to improving the lives of farmworkers and supporting sustainable agriculture.
Expanding access to participation in the Fair Trade produce program is a crucial step toward protecting the global supply chain. By lowering barriers to participation many more farmworkers will benefit from safer, more engaged employment, as well as having access to the Fair Trade Premium—a sum of money paid directly to workers. These funds are used to address a variety of pressing needs, such as healthcare, education, housing, and improving the quality of life for those who play a fundamental role in bringing fresh produce to our tables.
Our organization also contributes to the sustainability of the supply chain. Engaged workers are more reliable and productive, and their efforts can lead to better agricultural practices and increased crop yields. In a world where agricultural sustainability is increasingly important, this program promotes the responsible use of natural resources and supports the long-term health of the land.
In addition, Fair Trade USA’s revamped program continues to build customer loyalty as well. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the source of their food and the conditions in which it is produced. Fair Trade Certified produce provides assurance that the products they purchase are ethically sourced and reflect their values. This helps build trust between consumers and the store banners and brands they choose, ultimately benefiting everyone in the supply chain.
"Expanding access to participation in the Fair Trade produce program is a crucial step toward protecting the global supply chain." Leslie Simmons, Senior Director of Business Development, Fresh, Fair Trade USA™
"Expanding access to participation in the Fair Trade produce program is a crucial step toward protecting the global supply chain."
Leslie Simmons, Senior Director of Business Development, Fresh, Fair Trade USA™
The changes in the program aim to scale the impact of Fair Trade Certification for global farm workers and their communities by providing an industry-wide, simplified fee and premium structure, and creating a transparent, equitable program that provides growth for all certificate holders. The program innovation has three key elements:
The ultimate decision maker for the growth of Fair Trade Certified produce is the buyer (retailer or food service operator) who directs their supplier-partners (distributors, brokers, importers, and growers) to source and sell produce on Fair Trade terms. To incentivize growth and honor the valued commitment that buyers make to source more products on Fair Trade terms, we have recreated the volume-based service fee structure incentivizing the buyer (retailer, food service provider, distributor) to commit to volumes across all categories of produce. This gives large and small certificate holders the opportunity to sell more produce on Fair Trade terms and increases the impact on farmworkers.
Over the years the premium structure for produce has become increasingly complex. As the program grew over time, new produce items were added individually creating too many different price points to achieve scale. There will be a simplified structure of just two premium rates beginning in January of 2024.
In 2024, Fair Trade USA will begin the process of a major revision of our Agriculture Production Standard (APS). As an ISEAL code-compliant member, we follow recognized international best practices in standard setting and development which calls for minor revisions every three years and major revisions every five years. This approach compliments our commitment to innovation to continue meeting market demands, further understanding the increasing connection between people and the planet in our standards and helping small and large certificate holders enhance their cultivation in accordance with new and improved farming practices.
By removing obstacles to scale and creating a more inclusive program, Fair Trade Certified produce will reach many more farmworkers, and many more consumers who want to make a positive impact with their dollars. The Fair Trade produce program will also deliver more value to retailers and brands while enabling them to meet their sustainability goals and requirements. Learn more about these innovations and others by visiting Fair Trade USA’s innovation hub.