TIP: If a story moves you, use the comment feature for that story to write a response. Dialogue is a key to growing the movement!

Individual Membership Program for Fair Trade Advocates Launched


Fair Trade Resource Network welcomes any individual to join FTRN’s Fair Trade Society, the only membership program in North America in an inclusive, national nonprofit solely devoted to Fair Trade!

Members partner with FTRN and each other to:

  • Develop a home for individuals to collaborate & organize their voices
  • Educate ourselves and others further about Fair Trade
  • Facilitate and engage in dialogue within the Fair Trade movement
  • Give input into FTRN’s programs

Become a Member of FTRN’s Fair Trade Society


Producer Leader to be the Panelist on Webinar 118 About FTUSA-FLO Split


Fair Trade Resource Network (FTRN) announces the 2nd webinar in a series in October/November for the public to discuss implications and ask questions about the Fair Trade USA Split from Fairtrade International. A producer leader is the panelist on November 1, 1:00-1:50 pm eastern, with more details below.

Register for Webinar #118


Hundreds of WFTD Events Involve 50,000 People & Counting…


Hundreds of World Fair Trade Day events took place in the US & Canada from May 1-15, as Fair Trade advocates celebrated the benefits of Fair Trade and built awareness of this hopeful way of doing business. With the largest number of events and participants taking place on May 14, actual World Fair Trade Day, N. America has already involved over 50,000 people - and we’re still counting! As reports are emailed to wftday@ftrn.org, the attendance tracker will be updated through the end of May.

My Faith Journey to Fair Trade


By Jackie DeCarlo


Photo: I’m celebrating Fair Trade with members of the Kuapa Kokoo association.  Photo credit: Lutheran World Relief

Through this blog, I have been able to invite several friends and colleagues to reflect on their spiritual paths and how those intersect with Fair Trade.  In the coming weeks we’ll be hearing from folks like Serena Sato, who works at SERRV and participates in a small Christian community in Madison, WI, and David Funkhouser of TransFair USA who is also an ordained Episcopalian minister.  It seems right for me to add my own personal experience.  I’m sharing a slightly modified part of a talk I gave to a Unitarian community when I worked for FTRN a few years back.  It tells part of my story and shares my motivation as a Fair Trader.

….There is an official definition of Fair Trade that speaks of it as a partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect. For me at the level of the soul, Fair Trade has the power to improve lives both spiritually and materially. “Buying Fair Trade is like giving a glass of clean water to a thirsty person,” a cocoa farmer told me once.  Her Fair Trade association- Kuapa Kokoo — had sold at that time enough cocoa at fair prices in Ghana to dig 96 water wells, open three schools, and provide her village’s first “places of convenience,” what you and I call “bathrooms.”  When we buy Fair Trade, we help make those kinds of developments possible.  And we get high quality, beautiful or tasty products in own hands, our own homes.

This is a great irony for me as a person:  Basically my job as a consumer educator is to convince people to shop.  First off, I hate shopping.  Second of all, I am a Quaker.  Not the folks on the oatmeal boxes, Quakers have a tradition of simplicity.  We are supposed to look for the God within everyone, not what shoes somebody has on her feet or what brand of coffee is in his cup.  We aren’t supposed to be concerned with things of this world.  Yet these kinds of distinctions for me have been such an important part of my spiritual journey.

In Quakerism we use “queries”, which is just an old fashioned word for “questions,” to investigate our motivations, to clarify our intentions, to promote reflection.  I like the queries related to “Personal Way of Life” from the Baltimore Yearly Meeting:

  • Do you live in accordance with your spiritual convictions?
  • Do you seek employment consistent with your beliefs and in service to society?
  • Are you watchful that your possessions do not rule you? “

The questions for me become: Am I promoting materialism? Am I suggesting that you need to buy more, just in a politically correct way? Am I contributing to the kind of over-consumption that led to the recent global economic recession?  Here’s how I answer those queries for myself.

About a decade ago I was traveling around Central America and Mexico.  I had gone through some tough times and was getting some space from the US trying to figure out what I believed in, what mattered.  I was “taking a year off.”  But in a complication I hadn’t expect, in these very materially poor countries I kept coming into contact with people who wanted to be part of popular American culture.  Everywhere I looked:  American magazines, fast food, Tommy Hilfiger, and television.

I have been in some remote places in the world, but wherever there is electricity, there is a television.  Consider the implication of this.  All over the world, way up high on mountain tops and down in flat rice fields, people are seeing not only our sometimes simple-minded sitcoms and reality-shows, but they are also watching our commercials.  They are learning our materialism, our over-consumption.   And, because billions of people live on less than $2 a day, many of them want our lifestyle.

This frightened me.  Because I became worried, not only that the planet can’t sustain our kind of consumption spreading, but because millions of people are buying into a system that disconnects them from their individuality, separates them from their mother earth, and seeks to direct their energy and their skills into purchasing power.  The cloud of despair was getting darker for me.

At just about the same time I encountered a Fair Trade coffee cooperative in the highlands of Chiapas Mexico.  I ended up spending four months volunteering for the cooperative.  This was in 2000, when coffee was about .80 cents a pound on the world market, below the cost of production and much below the then guaranteed Fair Trade price of $1.26. I learned about how the fair price for coffee worked to help people out of poverty.   Beyond price, I also learned about Fair Trade as self-sufficiency, dignity, and opportunity.

I also learned that picking coffee beans is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do.  I didn’t have a total conversion and end up living in Mexico.  I eventually left and was on a bus traveling for hours and hours headed back to my middle-class lifestyle.  Somewhere along the way I had an epiphany:  Fair Trade helps prevent impoverished bodies AND it can help prevent the impoverishment of souls.  That is why I dedicated my professional live to helping people of faith and others of goodwill create economic justice through conscious consumption and trading.

How Deep is Consumer Demand for Fair Trade?


coffee_displayby Burton Bollag

The most recent data show that the sale of Fair Trade Certified products continued growing strongly last year—an expansion that has been slowed but by no means halted by the current economic recession. This both heartens Fair Trade advocates and suggests future growth in the amounts and range of products that consumers are willing to pay more for in the name of social justice.

While the limits to that expansion are hard to predict, several indices-sales data, an international survey of consumer opinions, and the recent large-scale involvement of major corporate retailers—suggest the phenomenon has considerably further to go before exhausting its potential for growth.

In 2008, $1.1 billion of Fair Trade products were sold in the United States. That compares to considerably less than $100 million in 1996, the year TransFair USA was founded as the only independent certifier of Fair Trade products sold in the country.

Despite the onset of the deepest economic recession in two generations, US sales in 2008 grew by 10 percent over the previous year. This should “put to rest any thought that Fair Trade Certified is a boom-time luxury,” said Paul Rice, TransFair’s chief executive, in a written statement. Sales are expected to expand further this year.

Globally, the sale of Fair Trade products grew 22 percent in 2008 to $4.3 billion.

In April the results of the first international survey of consumers’ attitudes on the subject were released. The survey, commissioned by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), the organization that coordinates labelling at an international level from its headquarters in Bonn, Germany, questioned 1,000 randomly selected consumers in each of 15 rich countries.

Opinions in the US and the other countries were remarkably similar. Over half of those questioned said they have rewarded companies for being social responsible. 57 percent of Americans (and 60 percent of all respondents from all 15 countries) said they were willing to pay at least five percent more for Fair Trade Certified products.

Yet the reduced growth of Fair Trade sales in the United States in 2008—the 10 percent hike was smaller than in previous years—shows the movement is vulnerable to larger economic trends. Shopping in the produce section of a Safeway supermarket in Washington DC one recent afternoon, Carolyn Stouamire, a 52-year old financial assistant, reflected the ambivalence that many people may feel. She said she knew about Fair Trade, and could accept slightly higher prices for bananas or other products if the premium goes to community development projects for small farmers growing the food.

But she added, “with the economy going the way it is, it’s hard to pay more.”

Still, merchants have felt a strong enough demand among their customers that more and more major retailers are adopting or expanding Fair Trade lines. “The entire spectrum of retail stores … are charging ahead to try to offer Fair Trade products,” says Michael E. Conroy, an economist and senior Fair Trade organizer.

“Both Whole Foods and Walmart are pressuring TransFair USA to expand the range of products with Fair Trade certification,” says Conroy. He adds that FLO recently responded by relaxing its rules to allow TransFair USA to set temporary standards for new products.

Companies often like to paint their adoption of Fair Trade products as a sign of corporate social responsibility. But Susan Koehler, Senior Manager of corporate communications at Sam’s Club, the membership-only retail warehouse club of Walmart, adds that carrying Fair Trade products before competitors do can bring a marketing advantage. The move is “an opportunity for us to be different in the market place.”

Sam’s Club began carrying Fair Trade coffee in 2006, two years before Walmart did. Sam’s Club officials explain their earlier adoption of the item by the fact that the better-educated, more affluent customers they cater to tend to be more interested in Fair Trade.

Since starting with coffee, Sam’s Club has expanded it selection of Fair Trade products to about a dozen items including bananas and wine—a wider selection than is yet available at Walmart. Sam’s Club officials say they expect to expand both the volume and selection further, but add they have no way of knowing how far that expansion will go.

Shawn Baldwin, Sam’s Club vice president of fresh merchandising, says that some of his colleagues predict customer demand for the Fair Trade line may go the way of demand for organically-produced foods. Five years ago, he says, demand for organic items was growing strongly. But “now it is slowing down.”

Many Fair Trade products are also certified Organic, and could therefore satisfy demand for both lines. Still, says Baldwin, demand can be fickle. “I guess the tide could go up and down, depending of what customers ask for.”

Holy Joe’s Cafe Ministry



Photo Courtesy of Holy Joe’s Ministry

by Jacqueline DeCarlo

Last week, Cheryl-a leader at SERRV (http://serrv.org) which began as a faith-based organization-mused in a blog comment about how “action which grows from spiritual understanding” is part of the Fair Trade movement today.  One effort that comes to mind is the “Holy Joe’s Café” ministry (http://holyjoescafe.blogspot.com/).

Thomas Jastermsky, of the First Congregational Church in Connecticut where the project started, reached out to me at Catholic Relief Services (http://crsfairtrade.org) knowing that CRS’s partner Equal Exchange (http://www.equalexchange.coop/interfaith-program) was involved in Holy Joe’s.

Tom is a big believer not only in God but also of supporting U.S. troops!  Since 2006 Holy’s Joe’s has helped 405 military chaplains provide a Coffee House ministry to troops in 120 locations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Chaplain Peter St. Martin says “Coffee has the effect of making the chaplain’s space a nice place to hang out.  It is in these moments that God and I do our best work, I believe: in casual conversation with no specific agenda and before the burden someone is carrying has erupted into real trouble.”

Organizations such as United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, and the United Methodist Church are involved. Congregations donate coffee to the ministry and in turn chaplains create a coffee house atmosphere so troops can relax, talk with a chaplain, or just get a good cup of coffee.  If your community is interested in putting its faith into action, get more information at 888-970-7994 or contact Tom via email: HolyJoesCafe “at” aol.com

If you have more examples of the old adage “faith works wonders” please comment below.

Does Fair Trade Owe Faith Communities for Past & Current Inspiration?


man-working-stool-w-cross-crsBy Jacqueline DeCarlo

As lead blogger for the next few months, I want to offer a warm welcome to this “Spirituality and Fair Trade” blog.  Many thanks to FTRN for devoting space to the question of how faith-based and spiritual motivations are shaping today’s effort to help believers shop their values. With your participation, and a range of voices from the Fair Trade movement, I hope we’ll create a conversation about the role faith plays in this unique marketplace.

But before we explore what’s happening today, I launch this blog with a premise:  The Fair Trade movement has its roots in-and owes much of its formative inspiration to-people of faith.  One of my favorite stories is that of Edna Ruth Byler, a church volunteer in Pennsylvania, who worked with the Mennonite Central Committee (http://mcc.org). As part of their regular duties, Edna Ruth and her husband J.N. took a trip in 1946 to Puerto Rico, where Byler was introduced to impoverished seamstresses improving their skills in sewing classes. When she got home, Edna Ruth began to sell embroidery products to women in local sewing circles.  She returned profits to the Puerto Rican seamstresses to help them work their way out of poverty. Eventually Byler opened a gift shop in the basement of the home she and J.N. shared, and that led the way to the retail chain now known throughout the United States and Canada as Ten Thousand Villages.

As important as it was to help create a successful Fair Trade Organization, Edna Ruth made an even greater contribution by shaping the framework of what Fair Trade is and why.  Finding opportunities to connect disadvantaged and marginalized producers to consumers has become a central principle of Fair Trade.  Other resources on this website can introduce you to the rest of the principles.  My point is that one woman, spurred by her faith and supported by her denomination, helped start a successful movement for economic justice.  We people of faith, then, have an important legacy to uphold.  We can’t take all the credit for Fair Trade’s success, of course.  That wouldn’t be accurate nor would it be appropriate as many faith traditions caution humility!  But as the movement evolves, I think it is important to shine a light on the religious and spiritual motivations some Fair Traders draw from as they work to shape and improve the movement.

In the coming months I will invite several Fair Traders to share this space to relate how their faith shapes their work.  At this point, I’d be interested to learn of particular role models within your faith community. Feel free to comment and uplift an individual or community whose faith results in Fair Trade activism.  Or, chime in if you think my premise is bunk!  Let me know if you think that Fair Trade, being based in the marketplace, should be considered only as a secular endeavor.  Whatever your opinions, I’ll post once a week, but regularly respond to comments you offer.

Photo: A priest in Madagascar explains the features of hand-made furniture.  Photo credit: Jacqueline DeCarlo/CRS.

Cadbury to Launch FT Sales of Flagship Chocolate in 3 Countries


Canada, Australia and New Zealand commit to certifying Cadbury Dairy Milk as Fairtrade by early 2010

Combined with Britain and Ireland, the five markets will quadruple Fairtrade benefits for cocoa farmers under Fairtrade terms

Today, Cadbury extends its commitment to Fairtrade by confirming that three more markets are to receive Fairtrade certification for the flagship Cadbury Dairy Milk brand by early 2010.  This move in Canada, Australia and New Zealand will bring the independent FAIRTRADE Mark into millions more homes in five of Cadbury’s key chocolate markets.

Read Cadbury’s full press release.

12 Winning Photos Announced in 1st FT Calendar Photo Contest


beads-to-bricks-at-beadforlife-calendar-winnerWe, on the Fair Trade Calendar Committee are pleased to announce the winners of the first annual Fair Trade Photo Competition conducted by Fair Trade Federation and Fair Trade Resource Network. From the 60+ photos submitted and the thousands of votes cast on Competico.com, producer groups, student activists, and a wide array of fair trade supporters participated over the three week competition. While anyone could vote, photo entries were restricted to students, activists, wholesalers, retailers and others who had a direct affiliation with FTF, FTRN TransFair or WFTO.

The 12 photos with the most votes will each appear as a monthly photo in the inaugural edition of the Fair Trade Calendar, and smaller versions of other photo contest submissions will also appear throughout the calendar. The 2010 Fair Trade Calendar will be printed on environmentally friendly New Leaf paper by Consolidated Printing and designed by worker-owned collective Design Action.

And…without further adieu, the winners are…(drum roll please…)

1. “Beads to Bricks” Bead for Life

2. “Weaver” Equal Exchange

3. “Ghanaian Seamstresses” Village Exchange International

4. ‘Intense Focus” Indego Africa

5. “Hands of “Indego Africa

6.”Master Trainer of Poda Pakistan” Global Goods Partners

7. “Yauli Knitter” Partners for Justice

8. “Beautiful Hands in Guatemala” Shanti Boutique

9. “Coffee Producer” Equal Exchange

10. “Two Women Beading Necklaces” Dunitz Co

11. “Beading at Lake Atitlan” Dunitz Co

12. “Pierre Youpa With His Papaya Tree” Partners for Just Trade

View the photos on Facebook.

Calendars will be available for sale at retail and wholesale rates on http://www.fairtraderesource.org/learn-up/buy-ftrn-publications/ in early September.

To place an ad or sponsor the calendar, contact FTRN before September 8.

For further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact any one of us on the calendar committee:

Fair Trade Calendar Committee

Tex Dworkin (tex@globalexchange.org) or Cecilia Dinio Durkin (admin@womensworkbw.com)

55,000 for World Fair Trade Day!

- Jeff Goldman

Video:  55,000 Strong for Fair Trade

WFTD video

Get Involved:

Plan an event

Join an existing event

Paul McCartney says…

Paul McCartney 360

“World Fair Trade Day is a great idea.  Fair Trade is essential for millions of people who work and struggle for survival everyday.  It’s all about justice and human rights.  So why don’t you join me in supporting World Fair Trade Day 09”