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Consumer packaged goods companies are increasingly including sustainability as a key factor in the design and management of their global supply chains, according to Todd Stark, chief operating officer of Fair Trade USA. Over the last few years, he says, businesses have placed greater emphasis on their water and electricity usage, as well as packaging materials. More recently, they have begun assessing whether their practices are actually leading to "improvements for the people who create those products all the way back to origin."
Fair Trade USA is a non-profit organization devoted to sustainable development and a market-based approach to alleviating global poverty. It has crafted a rigorous set of social, environmental and economic criteria for CPG brands. "We really are a trust provider for many companies," says Stark. "We help their brands to be recognized for doing things that are socially, environmentally and economically good for their workers."
Companies that meet the group's criteria receive a fair-trade certified label which they can display on their products. Stark says it aims to set aside funds for sustainable development of the communities in which workers live. By helping farmers to solve their own problems, it provides long-term solutions and reduces their need for international aid.
Established just 12 years ago, Fair Trade USA is still relatively young. Already, however, it serves nearly 800 customers in the U.S. alone. At the moment, coffee product accounts for 75 percent of its business, although the group is also involved in standards for the production of sugar, bananas, cocoa, honey, wine and flowers. Stark says it is branching out of the grocery sector into apparel and textiles. "There's a breadth of companies interested in working with us," he says, "and the range of commodities has grown dramatically in the last few years."
To view this video interview in its entirety, click here.
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