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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 Johannesburg.

"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

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.

In 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

UNEP and 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.


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