On February 11th, Chicago Fair Trade held its 2013 members kickoff meeting and fostered meaningful dialogue surrounding the progress being made with sustainability initiatives in the United States and abroad. Chicago Fair Trade supports events throughout the year to bring individuals together to learn about where products come from and how they can support the development of a more sustainable economy, especially through support of fair trade principles. It is also a network for businesses founded on ethical trading principals to support one another in business development and growth.
This year, Chicago Fair Trade centered its meeting on fair trade chocolate and invited me to be the keynote speaker. During the opening of the event, Executive Director Nancy Jones commented, “I am so pleased to see representatives from different sized chocolate companies – from Kallari to Theo to Mars – coming together to support the development of a sustainable cocoa economy this Valentine’s Day.”
Through this opportunity I was able to highlight Mars’ role in creating a more sustainable cocoa sector and how we focus on bringing high productivity back to cocoa farms in an effort to stimulate farmer incomes, address deeply rooted poverty in the community, and prevent further deforestation by expansion to new lands.
In addition, Sue Blaine, a former longtime employee of Mars, was able to join me for the event after finding out about it through her local congregation. After thirty years of working with Mars, she was so pleased to hear about the work that we are doing to support cocoa farmers and how we are taking great strides to improving the overall quality of the cocoa communities.
“I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation about Mars and their current efforts around chocolate sustainability and fair trade,” stated Sue. “I’m especially delighted to see that Mars is willing to have associates talk about the business and the very positive work being done within various communities.”
Other speakers at the event included Santiago Halty, founder of Senda, a sporting goods company that works with a factory in Pakistan to create soccer balls in a fair working environment. Senda’s mission is to allow young people build self-esteem through soccer and to promote sports as a tool for development, by having access to excellent coaches and soccer equipment.
There was a strong sense of solidarity fostered among the members at Chicago Fair Trade and it reminds me that in very different communities – amongst factory workers sewing soccer balls in Pakistan, cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire, or any of us in the crowd, we all have similar aspirations to lead healthy productive lives.
For more information about Chicago Fair Trade, visit http://www.chicagofairtrade.org/.