Skoll Foundation


FairTrade USA

Skoll Awardee(s): Paul Rice
Award Year: 2005
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Economic Opportunity, Sustainable Markets

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“Daily life continues to be a struggle for many of the farmers and workers outside of the Fair Trade model—a historically invisible population of laborers—who help produce the every-day goods that many of us take for granted. Fair Trade is arguably the most promising, proven solution for alleviating global poverty today, and has never been better positioned to expand exponentially in the years ahead.”

Sub-Issue Areas: Livelihoods; Responsible Supply Chains; Smallholder Productivity; Standards

Consumers typically have positive attitudes toward products that are ethically made –under fair labor conditions, environmentally sustainable, and with protection of human rights. But 99 percent of goods in global markets are not certified to meet these standards. Thus, many producers continue to face poverty and exploitation.

The Skoll Awardee: 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.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2005:

  • 1.3 million farmers and workers, 5 million total beneficiaries, in more than 70 countries now participate in Fair Trade.
  • In 2013, 154 million pounds of coffee were certified. Since its inception, Fair Trade USA has certified more than 1 billion pounds of coffee.
  • 780 companies in North America now participate in Fair Trade, and more than 12,000 products in 100,000 retail locations across North America carry the Fair Trade label. Product categories range from coffee, tea, and sugar to fruit, flowers, and wine.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.