Paul Rice is the Founder & CEO of Fair Trade USA, the leading certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S.
Since launching the Fair Trade Certified™ label in 1998, Paul has helped establish Fair Trade as one of the fastest growing segments of the food and apparel industries. To date, Fair Trade USA has partnered with over 1,400 leading companies, including Green Mountain, Nespresso, Whole Foods, Costco, Sam's Club, Kroger, Chobani and Target. Fair Trade USA now certifies coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, coconut, fresh produce and fish. Recently, through groundbreaking partnerships with Patagonia, Athleta, West Elm and J. Crew, Fair Trade has begun certifying apparel and home goods, improving the lives of factory workers.
In 2020 consumer recognition of the Fair Trade Certified label hit 63% and U.S. retail sales of Fair Trade products grew to $8 billion. As a result, to date, Fair Trade USA and its partners generated over $830 million in additional income for farmers and workers in 70 countries, allowing them to care for the environment and steadily improve their livelihoods.
Prior to founding Fair Trade USA, Paul worked for 11 years as a rural development specialist in the mountains of Nicaragua, where he founded and led the country's first Fair Trade, organic coffee export cooperative. Paul's rich, first-hand experience over the last 30 years in the fields of sustainable agriculture, grassroots economic development, global supply chain transparency and consumer activation is unique in the certification world. He is now a leading advocate of “impact sourcing” as a core strategy for both poverty alleviation and sustainable business.
Paul has been named Ethical Corporation’s 2019 Business Leader of the Year and is a four-time winner of Fast Company magazine’s Social Capitalist of the Year. Paul is also the recipient of the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and has spoken at the World Economic Forum, Clinton Global Initiative, Skoll World Forum, TEDx and numerous universities and conferences around the world.
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- Hybrid Social Enterprise
- Agriculture, Food and Beverage; Sustainable Development; Social Innovation
- Areas of Impact
- North America, Africa, Middle East & North Africa, South Asia, South Asia, Latin America
Fair Trade USA
Founded in 1998, Fair Trade USA is a leading certifier of fair trade products in North America. Its mission is to enable sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the Earth.
For the past 20 years, Fair Trade USA has worked to increase the market access, linkage and impact of responsibly sourced agricultural products and factory-made goods, directly benefiting millions of farmers, workers and families and establishing the Fair Trade Certified seal. In 2016, the sale of Fair Trade Certified products in the US reached an estimated $6 billion. More than 1,300 leading brands and retailers now sell fair trade products. Consumer awareness of the Fair Trade Certified seal is at an all-time high. Most important, Fair Trade USA and its partners have generated over $500 million in economic impact to farmers and workers around the world. That means that for every dollar it spends building the fair trade market, $4 in impact is generated for the families who produce the world's goods.
The success of core products like coffee has attracted visionaries in other industries. New innovations include: the first Fair Trade USA-certified in the United States in 2016, building on its successful produce partnerships with retailers such as Whole Foods and Costco in Latin America, which have improved the livelihoods and working conditions of thousands of migrant farmworker families; the Fair Trade Certified Fisheries initiative, launched in partnership with Albertsons Companies, which is growing fast and now certifies tuna, shrimp and scallop fishermen in four countries, ensuring better labour practices and environmental stewardship; the Fair Trade Apparel and Home Goods programme, which grew 66% in 2016 thanks to the support of visionary brands like Patagonia, West Elm, PrAna and Athleta that are leveraging fair trade to empower and engage nearly 50,000 factory workers in Asia and Latin America.