OAKLAND, Calif. (April 16, 2009) – With apologies to Mark Twain, reports of Fair Trade’s recession-induced death have been greatly exaggerated.
A global research study released today shows that interest in Fair Trade CertifiedTM in particular, and ethical consumerism in general, is on the rise. The study, conducted by global research group GlobeScan, comes on the heels of the recent release of 2008 U.S. Fair Trade sales figures. Those figures showed that despite a deepening recession and a slowing economy, Fair Trade Certified sales remained strong last year, growing by 10 percent in 2008. Powering that growth was another strong year for Fair Trade Certified coffee, which now accounts for nearly 20 percent of the specialty coffee category.
The study, a survey of at least 1,000 randomly selected consumers from each of the 15 countries∗ that offer Fair Trade products, found that:
• Nearly nine in ten American consumers believe that companies that deal with poor countries should pay workers fairly (89 percent) and ensure safe working conditions (87 percent);
• 81 percent of American consumers believe that companies dealing with developing countries should contribute to community development.
• 81 percent of American consumers say that seeing the Fair Trade Certified label positively affects their perception of a brand, and;
• 57 percent of Americans say they would spend at least five percent more for Fair Trade Certified products.
Fair Trade Certified is a market-based system for sustainable development whereby importers and retailers pay a premium price to farmers and farm workers who grow and produce goods in accordance with rigorous standards that guarantee worker rights, community empowerment and environmental sustainability.
“This research and our 2008 sales figures put to rest any thought that Fair Trade Certified is a boom-time luxury,” said Paul Rice, the chief executive of TransFair USA, the nonprofit organization responsible for Fair Trade certification in the United States. “Today, consumers want to know a product’s history, from farm to shelf. In the midst of the deepest recession of our generation, this sentiment is stronger than ever – it’s proof that we’ve entered a new era of ethical consumerism.”
The Fair Trade research is just one piece of a growing body of data to show the resilience and mainstream penetration of ethical consumerism. In research spanning the past decade, GlobeScan has found that the proportion of American consumers saying they have rewarded a company for being socially responsible has increased by 13 percent (from 46% in 1999 to 59% in 2009), a trend mirrored in other developed countries. Further, the current economic crisis hasn’t halted this trend as there has been a significant increase in the proportion of American consumers rewarding companies since 2007 (up 11 points). The question has been asked in an identical way over the past decade in order to accurately measure shifts in consumer behavior over time.
Fair Trade Certified fits into this trend. The recent global Fair Trade study from GlobeScan found that more than 30 percent of Americans fall into a category GlobeScan defines as “ethically minded consumers,” nearly double the size of the global average. GlobeScan defines these consumers as being very active in their communities and having very high expectations of companies for economic, environmental and social performance.
“Given the continuing rise of the ethical consumer right through the economic crisis, Fair Trade Certified is one of the brands most likely to succeed in these times,” said Doug Miller, Chairman of GlobeScan.
The study, commissioned by TransFair USA as well as the umbrella Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), was the first of its kind for the growing Fair Trade movement. The study was conducted in an effort to gauge consumer awareness and attitudes toward Fair Trade in the 15 countries that have well established Fair Trade markets: Austria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The study was fielded from Oct. 15 to Dec. 17, 2008. For more information or to see detailed study breakouts, contact Anthony Marek at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 510-625-2000 x346
∗ New Zealand was the only exception to this by surveying 500 consumers.
About TransFair USA
TransFair USA is the only independent, third-party certifier of Fair Trade Certified™ products in the United States. TransFair USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies offering Fair Trade Certified products and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods were paid fair prices and wages. Visit www.FairTradeCertified.org .
GlobeScan Incorporated is a global public opinion and stakeholder research consultancy with offices in London, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington. GlobeScan conducts custom research and annual tracking studies on global issues. With a research network spanning 75+ countries, GlobeScan works with global companies, multilateral agencies, national governments, and non-government organizations to deliver research-based insights for successful strategies. The firm specializes in reputation management, CSR, sustainability and global policy issues. Visit www.GlobeScan.com .