Highlights from the 2019 National Conference

Fair Trade Campaigns March 5, 2019

Knowledge. Passion. Motivation. Advocacy. Friendship. These are just a few of the words that emerged when we asked attendees what they were taking away from the 2019 National Conference.

In March 2019, we brought together over 375 Fair Trade partners, advocates, friends and supporters for three days of learning, networking and conversation in Chicago. Building on the energy of the 2018 conference in Washington, DC, the 2019 National Conference was an inspiring reminder of the strength and diversity of the Fair Trade movement.

Throughout the event, we explored topics aligned with our four program tracks. From campus allies to sustainability in the cocoa industry, we saw how partnerships continue to strengthen and scale our movement. We engaged in honest, thought-provoking conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusive advocacy. We saw how Fair Trade ties into the UN Sustainable Development Goals with discussions on climate change, anti-trafficking and responsible production and consumption. And we went back to basics with a Fair Trade & Advocacy 101 series, including a systems and standards 101 featuring representatives from the Fair Trade Federation, Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade America and the World Fair Trade Organization.

Woven through all of these sessions were key pillars of Fair Trade Campaigns’ strategic plan. Developing partnerships with leaders in Fair Trade, sustainability and social justice. Celebrating and supporting the campus advocates who are driving incredible growth across the country. Making direct connections between consumers and Fair Trade producers from around the world. We know the input and insights from the conference will make 2019 an amazing year for Fair Trade.

The Fair Trade Conference was one of the most inspiring and impactful experiences of my life and I can’t wait to see Fair Trade change the world! – Julian, Santa Cruz, CA

Inspiring Speakers

Fair Trade represents a broad and diverse network, and we were honored to welcome over 50 speakers to share their insights, perspectives and expertise from across the movement.

On Friday evening, we kicked off the conference with an incredible lineup of speakers. Anne-Michele Boyle, Briyanna Jones and Maya Westbrook shared Whitney Young High School’s journey to become the first Fair Trade School in Chicago. Adam Olson of Oxfam USA reminded us to take our advocacy to our representatives and push for fair policies. Kroger’s Karrie Pukstas and ECOfashion pioneer Marci Zaroff each celebrated the power of consumers to vote with our dollars and drive change. And we closed the night with stories and motivation from RefuSHE board member Espérance Gikundiro. “Everyone’s different for a reason,” she told us. “Use your difference to change the world.”

On the mainstage on Saturday, Fair Trade USA Founder and CEO Paul Rice reflected on 20 years of Fair Trade in the U.S. and how the movement continues to grow and evolve. We also looked at this evolution and growth from the business perspective, in a conversation with industry leaders led by Fast Company’s Elizabeth Segran.

Opening Sunday, civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson fired up our audience and encouraged us to take action. We were inspired by his energy and grateful for his honesty as he spoke to the challenges and inequalities that are driving community activism.

“Start where you are,” DeRay reminded us. “Most organizing starts out in living rooms, in common areas.” And even when starting small, we should still “dream the biggest dream and fight for that… Fight like you can get it in your lifetime.”

We closed the weekend by looking towards the future, in a conversation with next generation activists leading the charge for sustainability and social justice. “What keeps you pushing for change when that change is slower?” asked Teen Vogue’s Jessica Andrews. The resounding response from the panel: It’s the energy and dedication of our colleagues and classmates, conscious consumers and fellow advocates. We couldn’t agree more.

I found the Fair Trade Conference to be eye-opening, inspiring and most of all to push me to want to be a stronger advocate for Fair Trade. – Cindy, New York, NY

Firsthand Perspectives

As we seek new opportunities to connect consumers and producers, we were especially grateful for the participation and perspective of Fair Trade farmers, workers and advocates from around the world.

Joining us from Côte d’Ivoire, Claude Preka Toty shared his firsthand perspective on challenges facing the cocoa industry, and progress being made towards sustainability and economic empowerment.

Offering insight into international Fair Trade advocacy, Sagrario Angulo spoke of her experience leading the effort to make Quito, Ecuador the first Latin American capital city to earn Fair Trade Town designation. Sagrario also announced that Quito will host the 2020 International Fair Trade Towns conference, and invites us all to attend!

We were honored to welcome Isabel Uriarte, co-founder of Café Femenino and general manager of the CECANOR coffee cooperative in Peru, to share her inspiring work supporting empowerment and equality for women coffee farmers. Isabel stressed the importance of economic empowerment in delivering gender equality – without the ability to own land and earn income, women don’t have decision making power at home or in their communities and “empowerment will only be an emotional concept.”

Luis Miguel Garcia, General Manager of the Anserma coffee cooperative in Colombia, and Jaime Tamayo, COO of the Divemex produce farm in Mexico, brought their direct understanding of the impacts of climate change in producer communities. “Climate change isn’t something we have to educate farmers on,” said Jaime. “It’s something they are living every day.”

This conference was everything I could have hoped for. Getting to hear from allies and advocates across the movement and the inspiring work we are all doing was nothing short of inspiring and transformative. – Justin, Stevens Point, WI

2020 National Conference

We continue to be amazed by this community of socially responsible businesses, mission-driven organizations, campus and community advocates, and conscious consumers. We’re eager to continue this journey with you and can’t wait to celebrate another year of Fair Trade at the 2020 National Conference in Southern California!

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Stay tuned for more! Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing videos from all of the general sessions. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see when those go live, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for more updates, events and opportunities.

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