What next for Fairtrade America? Executive director Amanda Archila shares her plans

‘I passionately believe that we cannot ignore the voices of farmers and workers throughout our global supply chains’

Amanda Archila has just been appointed executive director of Fairtrade America. The US wing of Fairtrade International was founded in 2012 and is based in Washington DC where Amanda will be at the helm of an organisation currently riding high on a wave of global awareness of the Fairtrade brand and the positive impact it has on the lives of communities worldwide. 

According to the 2021 biennial Fairtrade Consumer Insights report conducted by sustainability consultancy Globescan, 41% of Americans now recognise the Fairtrade Mark – that’s a game-changing increase of almost 50% from 2019.

Consumer trust in the Mark has also increased, up 48% since 2019 to 57%. 

It’s an impressive achievement, which Archila thinks is based in world events as well as hard work by her organisation.

“Awareness of and demand for sustainable products and practices is on the rise in general,” she says, “and the last few years of the pandemic have illuminated the vulnerability of our global supply chains and the interconnectedness of individuals and businesses around the world.

Related: Fairtrade increases coffee minimum price to support farmers

“We’ve also worked hard over the last three years to build shoppers’ recognition of what the Fairtrade label stands for. Our annual Fairtrade Month campaign is an example of how we’re partnering with co-op retailers and our certified brand partners to connect people to the farmers behind their favourite Fairtrade products. 

“We have nine murals in major US cities across the country and our campaigns from 2020-2022 together have reached millions of people.”

The latest data from the New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business also shows that while “sustainability-marketed” products account for just 17% of the consumer packaged goods (CPG) market, they represent a third of growth between 2015-2021. 

Major players in the US Fairtrade market include globally recognised brands like Nespresso, Starbucks and Ben and Jerry’s. The ice-cream giant was one of the first companies in the world to go Fairtrade in 2005 and in early 2021 Ben and Jerry’s parent company Unilever promised to ensure that every person in its supply chain is earning a living wage by 2030. 

Archila’s personal interest in sustainability and ethical trade began almost 20 years ago as a young undergraduate at NYU. 

After dedicating much of her time there to the Fairtrade movement, including serving as an Oxfam America change leader in 2005, she supported the development and launch of a domestic fair trade certification in India with cotton farming co-operatives. 

Related: How Fairtrade farmers benefit from your purchases

Archila then returned to the US and spent five years in marketing and sales roles at Divine Chocolate, the global Fairtrade company co-owned by cocoa farmers in Ghana. During her tenure there she earned her MBA from Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, moving on to Amazon, where she held a variety of senior leadership roles across multiple business units. 

Her wealth of experience working across a range of industries – and extensive fair trade background and passion for collective ideals – is now set to be a major boost for Fairtrade America. 

As a result of her comprehensive background in the private sector and advocacy communities, Archila has developed a strong understanding of the role each plays and now plans to use this expertise accordingly. How did she get involved in the first place? 

“I was primarily introduced to the Fairtrade movement as an undergraduate student activist,” she says, “where I received leadership training through Oxfam America’s Change programme. At the time, negotiations around free trade agreements laid bare some of the fundamental risks that global trade policy imposes on the livelihoods of farmers and workers living in poverty around the world, and it seemed like there was a better way. 

“Fairtrade activists were dedicated to finding solutions, and certification was one critical tool in that toolbox for justice. I believed then, and still passionately believe today, that we cannot ignore the voices of farmers and workers throughout our global supply chains.”

Her strategy for the coming period includes strengthening Fairtrade America’s retailer relationships, forging better licensee partnerships in key categories and increasing consumer awareness of the impact of choosing Fairtrade products. 

“My history with the Fairtrade movement has fuelled my passion for supporting farmers and workers,” she says, “including ensuring they can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods and have meaningful representation at each level of decision making.

 “I am honoured to join the talented team at Fairtrade America and to support the organisation as it builds on its legacy as the globally most recognised and most trusted ethical label in the world.”

Nearly two million farmers and workers in more than 100 countries follow the Fairtrade Standards, which ensure more equitable terms of trade between farmers and buyers, protecting workers’ rights, and providing the framework for producers to build thriving farms and organisations. Around 37,000 products across the world carry the Fairtrade Mark. Since its launch in 1997 Fairtrade International has worked to reduce global inequalities – partnering with private companies, social enterprises and the international co-operative movement to promote fairer trading conditions, climate resilience, gender equality and workers’ rights. 

And as she takes up her new role at Fairtrade America, Archila is committed to building on that proud legacy. 

“Fairtrade offers a path for producers’ voices to not only be heard, but for their families and communities to build towards a better future,” she says. “The co-operative movement is part of our DNA and we are proud to share many core principles, particularly in asserting the power of ownership for farmers and workers. 

“I would look to the co-operative movement to continue championing these values and advocating for Fairtrade’s work as we think about how co-operative businesses procure their own goods, financially invest, and enhance collaboration between co-operatives in different parts of the world.”

She wants to accelerate the growth of Fairtrade-certified products by building strong relationships with brands and retailers who hold a position of great influence with consumers. “By doing so, we will continue to lift the voices of producers and shorten the distance between farmers, brands, and consumers,” she adds.

“Fairtrade America is part of a global network of Fairtrade leaders, and I am excited to be driving increased awareness of and investment in the tremendous work of the global system across the US. The future has never been brighter, and I am dedicated to keeping the bar high. There is still a tremendous opportunity to grow Fairtrade certification and consumer awareness, particularly in the US, and creating a fairer future for and with farmers and workers.”