Skip navigation
Building Fair Trade Towns

Building Fair Trade Towns

Direct marketing this and advertising that — sometimes, you just need to go grassroots. That’s what Transfair USA, the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products, is currently doing. They’ve started a campaign called Fair Trade Towns USA that’s bringing supporters together to promote the claim at the local level.

Part of the mission involves spreading the word within the community through education, events, working with city government leaders, and the like. It also includes interacting directly with retailers. Transfair spokeswoman Stacy Geagan Wagner told me that campaign organizers meet with area retailers, encouraging them to stock more products that carry Fair Trade certification. And they come prepared. Public relations manager Katie Barrow said the local Berkley, California chapter recently polled consumers to gauge their awareness of Fair Trade, and then presented those results to retailers.

Has the campaign visited your store yet? There are currently 13 Fair Trade towns: Amherst and Northampton, Mass.; Brattleboro and Burlington, Vt.; San Francisco and Chico, Calif.; Milwaukee; Montclair and Highland Park, NJ; Bluffton, Ohio; Ballston Spa, NY; and Taos, NM. There are also 30 cities and communities with active campaigns that have not yet been officially recognized.

Fair Trade may not pull in as much in sales as organic and natural claims. But it enjoys a very high level of loyalty among those familiar with the label. In 2008, according to Transfair data, only 29% of consumers were familiar with Fair Trade, yet overall sales of Fair Trade products totaled $1.2 billion.

The new grassroots movement could significantly increase that awareness. Supermarkets need to be ready, and not be surprised if they get a call from their local Fair Trade organizers.