What is Fair Trade?


Fair Trade began modestly in the 1940s when a few small North American and European organizations reached out to poverty stricken communities to help them sell their handicrafts to well-off markets. Later, a fictional Dutch character, Max Havelaar, was developed as an advocate for exploited coffee pickers. Today, Fair Trade is a global effort. Consumers can enliven developing countries, relieve exploitation and promote environmental sustainability by purchasing Fair Trade-labeled tea, cocoa, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, sugar, honey, wine, flowers, grains and rubber products.  Click through our history highlights to learn more.


1999 - 2009


TransFair USA becomes Fair Trade USA. The updated, simplified name and brand identity will support our efforts to increase awareness of Fair Trade among a broader consumer audience.


Fair Trade Certified coffee imports surpass 110 million pounds, totalling more than TransFair USA certified in its first seven years of business.


Paul Rice addresses the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, closing with a public commitment to launch Fair Trade cotton and apparel. TransFair USA begins certifying flowers, wine and honey.


After Media, PA’s 2006 declaration, Amherst, Milwaukee and Brattleboro declare themselves Fair Trade Towns. U.S. sales of Fair Trade Certified™ products hit $1 billion.


Paul Rice is on the cover of Fast Company. TransFair USA receives the publication’s annual Social Capitalist Award for four consecutive years.


TransFair USA is honored by the Skoll Foundation with a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Fair Trade Certified™ sugar and rice hit the U.S. market for the first time. Vanilla is soon to follow.


At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Paul Rice advocates for Fair Trade. TransFair USA introduces Fair Trade Certified bananas.


The Ford Foundation awards TransFair USA almost $3 million in grants, growing our innovative model for poverty alleviation. United Students for Fair Trade is born.


TransFair USA produces a public service announcement about Fair Trade, featuring Emmy Award-winning actor Martin Sheen, which airs nationally. TransFair USA begins certifying chocolate after world...


Millions of Americans are alerted to poverty in the coffee industry when USA Today runs an article on Fair Trade Certified coffee. TransFair USA launches Fair Trade Certified tea.


Fair Trade Certified™ becomes the fastest growing segment of the U.S. coffee industry. Paul Rice is elected to the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship for his work in the Fair Trade movement.


TransFair USA launches Fair Trade Certified™ coffee at the Specialty Coffee Association of America exposition. TransFair USA and SCAA sign an agreement to promote Fair Trade.