Skoll Foundation


FairTrade USA

Skoll Entrepreneur(s): Paul Rice
Award Year: 2005
Focus Area(s) Addressed: Sustainable Markets

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After working for more than a decade in Central America and helping Nicaraguan coffee farmers improve their livelihoods through an organic coffee export cooperative, Paul Rice launched Fair Trade USA (previously known as TransFair USA) in 1998 to bring the fair trade movement to the United States.

Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, promotes a market model that guarantees farmers and workers a fair price for their products, direct market linkage, and access to credit and support for sustainable agriculture. As the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in North America, Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between companies that offer Fair Trade products and their international suppliers to guarantee compliance with Fair Trade standards and principles.

And as a development agency, Fair Trade USA educates consumers, builds supply chains for Fair Trade, brings new manufacturers and retailers into the system, and provides farming communities with the tools, training and resources needed to thrive as international businesspeople.


  • In 1998, Fair Trade USA’s first year, 76,000 pounds of coffee were certified. In 2013, 154 million pounds were certified. In total, Fair Trade USA has certified more than 1 billion pounds of coffee as of the latest release of data in April 2014.
  • An Oct. 2014 $10 million grant, the largest ever awarded to Fair Trade USA, kick-started a momentous new goal for the nonprofit—$1 billion back to Fair Trade farmers and workers by 2020. As a baseline, producers have earned $350 million in additional income through Fair Trade since 1998.
  • Fair Trade farmers in the developing world earned more than $114 million in additional Community Development Premiums, bringing dramatic improvements in things like health, housing and education to their communities.
  • 780 companies in North America now participate in Fair Trade, including a rapidly growing range of powerful mainstream retailers and other industry leaders.
  • The Fair Trade Certified™ label offers consumers a simple way to know that their products were produced in a responsible manner. The third-party verification guarantees that strict social, economic and environmental standards have been met. Now more than 12,000 different products can be found in more than 100,000 retail locations across North America.
  • And Fair Trade is exploring the process of certifying even more product varieties, including seafood and furniture.
  • 1.3 million farmers and workers, 5 million total beneficiaries, in more than 70 countries now participate in Fair Trade.
  • Retail sales in 2010 were $1.2 billion. In March 2012, Fair Trade USA reported new data revealing that sales of Fair Trade Certified™ products grew 75 percent between Q1 and Q4 2011.
  • In 2012, imports of Fair Trade Certified coffee, the largest Fair Trade category, grew 18 percent, to 163 million pounds.
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