Whole Foods to Certify Sustainable Products

Whole Foods to Certify Sustainable Products

Many products like coffee, tea, chocolate and some produce and grains already carry the black-and-white Fair Trade Certified sticker on the shelves at Whole Foods Markets nationwide. But these goods will soon be joined by a new line of similarly ethically sourced products, bearing a new Whole Trade Guarantee label.

In order to carry the new label, these products must meet strict requirements for quality, wages and working conditions and environmental practices. In exchange, Whole Foods will pay a higher price for the goods, helping to encourage smart and sustainable production in the developing world.

"With our shoppers' growing concern about ethical and responsible trade and with our company's increasing scale and scope, the time is right for Whole Foods Market to help make more of an impact," said John Mackey, Whole Foods co-founder and CEO.

Whole Foods announced the program in conjuction with TransFair USA, which certifies Fair Trade products in the United States, and the Rainforest Alliance, a nonprofit that works with landowners and businesses to promote environmental stewardship.

In paying a premium for Whole Trade goods, Whole Foods' buyers can give farmers and producers a chance to expand and improve their practices and free them from the market fluctuations that can wreak havoc on small businesses. In exchange for access to high-end markets in the U.S., producers agree to pay their workers above-market wages and incorporate sound environmental practices, including soil and water conservation techniques and encouraging biodiversity.

As part of the new program, for each Whole Trade Guarantee product sold, 1 percent of the retail sale will go to the Whole Planet Foundation, which works to create economic partnerships with to fight poverty in the developing world by providing grants for micro-loans for women entrepreneurs.

"Whole Trade Guarantee is a win-win situation for poverty relief because it ensures that producers receive a premium price and marketplace for their goods and ... 1 percent of the retail price will go to the Whole Planet Foundation, which is creating real results in the fight against poverty by providing grants for micro-loans for women entrepreneurs," Mackey said.

By working with the Rainforest Alliance and TransFair USA, Whole Foods says it will be able to ensure that the Whole Trade Guarantee criteria are verifiable. In addition to acting as certifiers, these partners aid producers in getting their products to market, improving their operations, and verifying and tracking the program results.

"Whole Foods Market's Whole Trade Guarantee is a terrific example of socially responsible leadership that aims to promote environmental, social and economic sustainability in agricultural production," said Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rainforest Alliance.

"Whole Foods Market's Whole Trade Guarantee is a ground-breaking industry initiative, assuring conscious consumers that their purchase benefits farming communities and protects the environment." said TransFair president and CEO Paul Rice.

The first product to bear the Whole Trade label are bananas grown at EARTH University in Costa Rica, which are grown using low-impact agriculture techniques and help support EARTH University's education and entrepreneurship programs. About 100 other products will be in the inaugural group of Whole Trade products, including tea, cocoa, mangoes, rice, sugar, and vanilla. In addition, three of Whole Foods' house-label Allegro coffees will be labeled Whole Trade.

Whole Foods aims to have over 50 percent of its imported products from the developing world meet the Whole Trade criteria within ten years, with the eventual goal of holding all its developing-world products to the Whole Trade standard.