Fair Trade USA™ Leslie Simmons Talks Resiliency, Goals, and More
OAKLAND, CA - Eliminating poverty and making sustainable development achievable for farmers, their employees, and their families, then communities around the world—this sounds like a long Christmas list for a globally stable supply chain, involving Santa and all of his elves. In fact, it is the actionable goal of Fair Trade USA™ and its Fair Trade Certified Produce innovative business model.
“Year-round sourcing and global supply of fresh produce are increasing consumption and industry profits, but economic pressures, supply chain disruptions, climate change, and geopolitical tensions in production countries threaten the viability of the agricultural workforce and the ability of the land to provide fresh produce at economic and environmentally sustainable levels,” Leslie Simmons, Senior Director of Business Development of Fresh, shared. “Supply chain resiliency is built by directly addressing unsustainable business practices and building a more reliable and equitable operation from the ground up.”
A key branch of this strategy is having a strong and wide-reaching network. Those joining the miracle-seeking mission will be in the company of major retailers, including Whole Foods Market, Costco, Walmart, Kroger, Amazon, Target, Sam’s Club, and more, as well as recognizable fresh produce brands like Dole Food Company, Driscoll’s, Wonderful Citrus, Windset Farms®, Oppy, Divine Flavor, Freska Produce International, Mastronardi Produce®, Giumarra Companies, and many more.
“Labor shortages, working conditions, and worker health and safety are top-of-mind for produce suppliers and retailers alike. Implementation of the Agricultural Production Standard (APS), which leads to Fair Trade Certification, empowers and improves the lives of farm workers and can even lead to higher worker-retention rates creating a more reliable supply chain,” Leslie continued, adding how a United States amendment to the APS includes guidance on implementation to fit the unique needs of domestic farms. “It directly addresses the realities of U.S. agricultural businesses and the needs of their farm workers.”
The premium generated by Fair Trade Certified produce sales directly impacts the lives of farmworkers. Leslie explained how the funds go directly to democratically elected committees comprised of workers who determine the best use of the funds to meet their individual, unique needs. Yet, while 100 percent of produce grown on certified farms meets Fair Trade standards, less than 50 percent of this production is sold on Fair Trade USA terms, decreasing the benefit to the farms, farmworkers, and the supply chain. Meanwhile, challenges vary across agricultural operations and are unique to each country, commodity, and segment of the produce supply chain.
The solution, Leslie concluded, is in both industry consistency and consumer encouragement with their own dollars.
“58 percent of Americans identify as conscious consumers, meaning they educate themselves about the products they buy and prefer those with social and/or environmental attributes. 86 percent of consumers want to see more sustainable and equitable products in the post-pandemic market. 65 percent of consumers recognize the Fair Trade Certified label; of those, 78 percent view the certification as trustworthy and 41 percent are more likely to purchase at a price premium of up to 20 percent, yet less than 1 percent of total produce sold is Fair Trade Certified,” she said.
Now more than ever, retailers and fresh produce companies are looking to communicate their values to customers. 93 percent of the world’s 250 largest companies now report on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, according to Fair Trade’s count. To participate in the Fair Trade USA program is to chart these efforts all on one succinct map that covers an increasing amount of the globe. The team even revealed a revamped program to both clarify and ease the process for retailers and consumers alike, making even more sense of this ambitious trek.
After all, this is the season for making miracles happen!