Bananas & Fair Trade Procurement

Courtney Lang January 26, 2012

Taking Action after the 5th International Fair Trade Towns Conference

As many of you have experienced before, it’s so easy to capture excitement and inspiration from conferences, but how about measuring results?

It’s been just over two months since the delegation of 9 Fair Trade Town USA representatives returned from the lovely city of Malmo, Sweden where we attended the 5th International Fair Trade Towns Conference, and plans have transpired.  At the conference, over 200 organizers from 26 countries, including Ghana, Japan and Belgium, took on the global vision “Beyond 1,000 Fair Trade Towns” by building a collaborative strategy to take ethical consumption to the next level.

Fair Trade Towns USA put out an initial blog about the international conference which captured the excitement that we are all familiar with, and it gave you a brief download of some of the topics that were covered (check out the blog post here).  Next, we took a few weeks to reflect on the information that was presented to us at the conference, and our group got back together  on a conference call mid-December to answer the following questions:  What were our takeaways, and how do we put them into action so that next year, when we return to the conference, we have measurable accomplishments to present?

In this second follow-up blog we’d like to share with you how we’re taking our experiences and evolving them into plans that will penetrate the U.S. Fair Trade market.  And, how you can be a part of it!

Fair Trade Banana Campaign

As we mentioned in our first follow-up blog, Swedish journalist and filmmaker Fredrik Gertten created a lively debate around the unacceptable working conditions within the banana industry through his documentary BANANAS!  After watching the trailer and having a Q&A session with Gertten at the conference, the U.S. delegation was inspired to organize a Fair Trade Month campaign that focuses on increasing the awareness and availability of Fair Trade bananas nationwide.

So, what does that mean?  Well, our hope is to create print resources that campaigns can use to canvas locations such as supermarkets, schools, hospitals, and offices and influence those who purchase bananas through distributors to choose Fair Trade. Campaigns can simultaneously distribute event kits in their communities that will boast resources such as educational print materials, banana suites and documentaries.

TAKE ACTION:  Would you like to be part of planning, implementing, and promoting the National Fair Trade Banana Campaign this October during Fair Trade Month?  We’d like to get a group of creative individuals together and need your support to ensure success.  Interested?  Please contact Courtney Lang at

Building Fair Trade Procurement in the U.S.

The Swedish Minister for EU Affairs Mrs Birgitta Ohlsson gave a speech at the international conference.

You may or may not know the breadth of municipal involvement in the Fair Trade movement across the pond in Europe – but it’s huge!  In fact, if you had attended the workshop called “A Strongly Committed Public Sector” at the conference, you would have noticed that all three presenters were paid city employees spearheading Fair Trade Town campaigns.

We haven’t found ourselves at that point here in the U.S., but coming out of the conference our group established that we need to figure out how to get more binding procurement policies and Fair Trade champions within municipalities so that the norm in a Fair Trade Town involves more government commitment.

A procurement policy is simply the rules and regulations that are set in place to govern the process of acquiring goods and services needed by a town/city to function efficiently. Examples of procurement in a town or city could include using Fair Trade products at catered city events, serving Fair Trade coffee at the police, fire departments or hospitals, having public schools purchase Fair Trade bananas, and much more.  There are many ways to approach this, and it starts by building relationships that can lead to influencing the city/town buying patterns on the taxpayer’s dollar.

That being said, we’re excited to announce that over the next 6 months, thanks to funding from Green Mountain Coffee, Fair Trade Towns USA will be designing a strong model procurement policy that can be negotiated and implemented by Fair Trade Town campaigns in the U.S., thereby building greater demand for Fair Trade products in their local communities.

We’ll keep you posted as our plans develop!

TAKE ACTION:  To begin increasing public demand of Fair Trade products we need to start by raising awareness among public officials.  Attend a city council meeting in February and bring some Fair Trade chocolate for council members to snack on.  Let them know how much love goes into those chocolate bars, and how much you’d love it if they chose Fair Trade, at home or work!

Videos, notes and more!

We’d also like to share with you session notes, videos and photos from the conference that were recently published by both the international community and your fellow Fair Trade Town colleagues who joined us in Sweden.  We think you’ll find them useful in your day-to-day campaign strategy planning.


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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.