Fair Trade USA joins with GoodGuide on Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate

At GoodGuide, we’re committed to providing the most comprehensive, credible product ratings for consumers seeking healthy, green and socially responsible choices. To pursue our mission, we often seek to partner in our research and data collection with today’s leading and most reputable organizations that are fostering real change in the marketplace.

To that end, we’re proud to share the celebrations around our recently-launched coffee, tea and chocolate ratings with Fair Trade USA. The Fair Trade movement ensures that in this increasingly globalized world, workers who make our products are paid a fair, living wage no matter their location. It’s vital work and Fair Trade USA is at the forefront of it. Here’s an interview with Stacy Geagan Wagner, Fair Trade USA’s Director of Media & PR. We hope you enjoy it.

GG: Fair Trade USA’s team is very impressive. How do you attract this level of talent to your organization?

SGW: That’s very kind of you to say. Over the years, our mission–to promote sustainable development and community empowerment to alleviate poverty among agricultural communities in the developing world–has attracted a cadre of social entrepreneurs who are passionate about making a difference. We are a nonprofit organization, so while our traditional benefits cannot compete with commercial enterprise, the sense of accomplishment and commitment among our team is unrivaled. It’s very empowering, personally, to know that you can affect change in the world and, it’s empowering, literally, to help hard-working people generate sustainable trade versus simply receive traditional aid.

GG: Would you give us an example of a specific community that has benefited from Fair Trade?

SGW: We can all relate to education, so I’ll share a story from Rwanda. According to Christine Condo, executive director of the Rwanda Economic Development Initiative, “They [KOAKAKA, a Fair Trade cooperative in Rwanda] have built new roads and can now afford to pay the school fees for the children of their members. In Africa, it’s very difficult for villagers to attend school, but since the cooperative became Fair Trade Certified, the majority of members, 90 percent, can send their children to school thanks to Fair Trade. This is incredibly important for the farmers, and the higher prices that they have received from Fair Trade have increased their motivation and improved their lives in real terms. Fair Trade has also helped them improve their individual and communal health as they now can afford health care. This is a great thing; it doesn’t just decrease poverty, but also improves their daily lives.”

GG: What milestones do you hope the Fair Trade movement reaches in 2011?

SGW: We hope that awareness of Fair Trade continues to grow rapidly because growth in general public awareness significantly increases the amount of impact going back to producers. Between 2005 and 2010, Fair Trade awareness increased four-fold, from 9% to 34%. At the same time, additional income earn by producer communities increased from $14 million to $48 million, respectively. We have a long way to go, but we want Fair Trade to become a household word. That will take a multi-pronged approach–more companies buying Fair Trade Certified raw materials, more retailers offering Fair Trade products and more consumers asking for Fair Trade.

GG: For you personally, what’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

SGW: I was the first child in my family to go to college. With that education, I garnered 17 years of corporate experience, but then chose to join Fair Trade USA, in part, because I understand how lucky I was to be born in the United States. I share that information because Fair Trade is comprehensive approach to sustainable development through trade, not aid. We help to level the playing field for hard-working people around the world so that they too can hope for a better future for their kids. This job makes me insanely proud because I make a difference and I get help others understand that they too have power to create change. The issues that face our world are overwhelming, but by simply buying the right coffee, chocolate, bananas, we can make our purchases–or actions–matter.

GG: How do you see GoodGuide furthering the market’s adoption of Fair Trade principles?

SGW: As consumers, we are bombarded with information on a daily basis. Just like the Fair Trade Certified label, GoodGuide is working to become a trusted source for socially- and environmentally-consious consumers. Fair Trade Certified and GoodGuide do the leg work for consumers that want a more sustainable approach to poverty alleviation. We’re very excited to partner with GoodGuide to help shoppers know that every purchase matters and that they have the power to make a difference.

About Sheila Viswanathan

Sheila Viswanathan focuses on educating individuals on how to make healthier dietary choices. She received her doctoral degree in Nutrition and Public Health from Teachers College, Columbia University and is certified as a registered dietitian.
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