September 06, 2002
Rio + 10 Series: U.S. Company Receives World Summit Award for Sustainable Development Partnerships
by William Baue
ForesTrade, which markets organic spices and fair trade coffee, was the sole U.S. company to win a
Sustainable Development Partnerships Award at the Johannesburg Summit.
In his address on Tuesday's "Business Day" at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a clear directive to the 700 companies gathered in
"The corporate sector need not wait for governments to take
decisions," said Mr. Annan. "We realize that it is only by mobilizing the corporate sector that we
can make significant progress."
The UN has been promoting the building of partnerships
between the public and private sectors as a means of achieving sustainable development. More than
220 such partnerships identified themselves to Summit organizers.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) recognized
the most successful of these partnerships with the World Summit Business Awards
for Sustainable Development Partnerships. The awards recognize multi-stakeholder partnerships
that promote sustainable development. In a ceremony at the Sandton Hilton in Johannesburg last
Saturday, 10 of the 32 recipients received their awards.
A panel of 12 experts from
business, labor, research, and environmental groups as well as the UN judged more than 120
nominations from 37 countries. Recipients hail from four continents, but only one of the
award-winning companies is located in the United States.
Brattleboro, Vermont-based ForesTrade, a privately owned company,
received the award for the efficacy of its business model. ForesTrade was recognized for both how
it takes into account the social and environmental impacts of its business and the structure of its
multi-stakeholder partnerships in Indonesia and Guatemala.
"ForesTrade seeks to
integrate the principles of Agenda 21 into its business practices," said ForesTrade Co-Founder and
Vice President Sylvia Blanchet at a Summit press conference on sustainable trade. Agenda 21 is the
global environmental action plan that resulted from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
The World Summit Awards
for Sustainable Development Partnerships Ceremony at the Sandton Hilton in Johannesburg.
Left to right:
Richard Holme, Chair, Selection Committee, Klaus Topfer,
Executive Director, UNEP, Thomas Fricke, CEO and Co-founder, Sylvia Blanchet, Vice President &
Co-founder, Richard D. McCormick, President, ICC
ForesTrade is the
largest supplier of organic spices in North America and Europe and a leading supplier of single
origin fair trade coffee. Organic farming practices promote increased soil productivity while
avoiding the introduction of toxic pesticides and herbicides into the environment. Single origin
coffee comes directly from the farmers, and fair trade practices seek to compensate them with a
fair living wage.
"I want consumers to know that when they spend their money on organic
and fair trade, they really are making a difference in the communities we work with," said Ms.
Blanchet in a webcast
interview with Jack Whelan of the International Chamber of Commerce.
For example, when
ForesTrade established a fair trade coffee program in Aceh, Indonesia, the company dealt with 40
individual farmers in two communities. The program, which is now the largest single one of its
kind, currently involves 1,500 farmers in 24 communities, according to ForesTrade Co-Founder and
CEO Thomas Fricke. Overall, ForesTrade works with 6,000 local indigenous farmers, thus directly
impacting 24,000 family members and indirectly impacting 50,000 community members in 200
communities in Guatemala and Indonesia. Furthermore, the company insists that the farmer
organizations it deals with be democratically organized.
"The farmers themselves are
ForesTrade's most important partners," said Ms. Blanchet at the press conference.
addition to the collaborations with local community organizations, ForesTrade has also partnered
with international environmental organizations.
"With our growth, we have become more
attractive to conventional investors and lenders, including socially conscious investors such as
EcoLogic Enterprises Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and Foursome
Investments, to name a few," ForesTrade CFO Geoff Lindemer told SocialFunds.com.
ICC acknowledged these partnerships, in addition to those fostered with local community
organizations, in granting ForesTrade the award. Ms. Blanchet emphasized the importance of
increasing backing to promote continued growth.
"We also need the finance and investment
community to back us now, because the market is growing, and it needs their support," said Ms.
Blanchet in the webcast.