Paul Rice

Fair Trade USA
Year founded: 

Fair Trade USA enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model benefiting farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth. It achieves its mission by certifying and promoting Fair Trade products.

Focus: Fair Trade, Sustainable Development
Geographic Area of Impact: Africa, Asia, Latin America
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 1.2 million (2010)
Annual Budget: US$ 9.1 million (2010)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 74%
Recognition: Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum

The current global economy places the world’s small farmers and agricultural workers at a significant disadvantage within the value chain for their products. Poverty, geographical isolation and lack of access to market information leave many farmers with returns that fail to cover their costs of production, a pattern with dire human and environmental consequences. The Fair Trade Certified model enables farmers and workers to overcome these challenges by ensuring they receive a fair price for their goods, covering both the production costs and a sustainable livelihood. This price additionally covers funds needed for vital community development initiatives such as building schools, opening health clinics and reforestation projects. These unique benefits enable farmers and workers across Africa, Asia and Latin America to achieve sustainable community development.

Innovation and Activities
Fair Trade USA is the leading third-party certifier of its products in the US. The organization actively builds US consumer awareness and demand for its products, ensuring that Fair Trade is a profitable growth market for businesses. This win-win proposition for farmers, workers, consumers and businesses distinguishes its model from traditional aid-based responses to poverty in the developing world and provides a unique model for sustainability.

Fair Trade USA works with over 700 US companies, including Starbucks Coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts, Green Mountain Coffee and Ben & Jerry’s, and recently expanded its product line in response to growing consumer demand. Products that it currently certifies include coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, fresh fruit, rice, flowers and garments.

In 2011, Fair Trade USA launched "Fair Trade for All," an innovation strategy designed to expand its successful model to scale. The three pillars of the strategy are designed to double its impact by 2015: strengthen farming communities through investment and technical assistance; expand the scope of Fair Trade to include previously excluded communities and products; and stimulate consumer involvement to drive awareness and sales of Fair Trade Certified products.

The Entrepreneur
Paul Rice worked for 11 years as a rural development specialist in the mountainous Segovia’s region of Nicaragua. There he founded and led a successful Fair Trade organic coffee export cooperative called PRODECOOP, introducing him to the transformational power of Fair Trade. When the opportunity arose in 1998 to launch Fair Trade USA, he found this to be a natural evolution of his years in the field. Rice has received numerous awards, including the Ashoka Fellowship, Fast Company magazine’s Social Capitalist Award and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. He has also been recognized by the AVINA Foundation for his "leadership for change”, and honored by the Clinton Global Initiative for his efforts in Fair Trade for All.