Hello Sweet World!
It’s our first blog posting. If you’re new to Wholesome Sweeteners’ world, welcome! If you’re an old friend, we’re glad to see you here! Either way, please, pull up a chair and sit with us a spell. We’ve got lots to talk about!
But first, we’d like to introduce ourselves (forgive the indulgence) …
We supply sweeteners, but they’re not the conventional kind at all. Oh, they’re delicious and perfectly sweet, with amazing flavor profiles and textures, but they’re also USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified, which sets them apart from the majority of other sugars, syrups and honey you’ll find on the shelves. We’re committed to the planet and its people (including you). We don’t make a move without first thinking about our environmental and social responsibility. And we don’t just talk the talk, we really do walk the walk.
Wholesome Sweeteners is a young company with generations of experience and expertise behind it. In addition to bringing the best organic natural, unrefined sweeteners to the North American market, Wholesome pioneered the Fair Trade certification process for sugars and honey. Today, Wholesome Sweeteners is the leader in Fair Trade Certified, organic and natural sugars, syrups, blue agaves and honey, all produced from nature’s best resources.
In fact, Wholesome leads the way with our Fair Trade Certified products. It all began in 2002 …
Nigel Willerton had just taken the helm as Wholesome Sweeteners CEO. With years of experience in the British sugar trade, Willerton understood the difference Fair Trade could make for the people and for the planet. “Wholesome Sweeteners has a proud record of sourcing from environmentally and socially responsible suppliers. We wanted to take our commitment a step further and deliver more value directly back to our growers,” Willerton says. He believed that Wholesome could make a significant difference in the everyday lives–and futures–of cane farmers and their communities. It was time to set new rules for the industry.
Inspired by the emerging Fair Trade movement, which until then had been primarily the domain of coffee and cocoa, Willerton started working with TransFairUSA to establish Fair Trade standards for sugar cane cooperatives and mills. “After three years of negotiation and hard work,” he says, “we launched our Fair Trade Certified sugars and molasses. Just months after Willerton and the cane farming cooperative signed the first agreement, money began flowing back into the co-ops. A couple of years later, we added the First Fair Trade Certified honey to the mix. Consumer support of Wholesome Sweeteners Fair Trade Certified products has meant that, in the years since their launch, we’ve sent more than $2,000,000 in social premiums to our Fair Trade co-op partners in Costa Rica, Malawi, Mexico and Paraguay,” Willerton says. “Each quarter, we’re able to send more than the quarter before. We’re more than pleased by it all.”
As a general rule, Fair Trade Certified co-ops include very small producers managing their own farms on limited income and with their own hands; their families are their labor force. In many cases, while the spirit and drive to succeed are there, the farmers lack the practical experience to move their sugar into the global marketplace.
Through Fair Trade programs, cane farmers earn a better income for their hard work–allowing them to hold on to their land, send their kids to school and develop the quality of their harvest while sharpening their business acumen and strengthening their communities. Fair Trade agreements set trade prices, remove unnecessary middlemen (who, in the past, have taken a significant percentage of farmers’ income) and provide access to pre-harvest lines of credit for cooperatives.
Wholesome wires the premiums directly to the co-ops’ accounts each quarter. (There are no middlemen skimming money away from the co-ops.) The premiums stay within the co-ops … co-op members invest in clinics and schools, equipment and other resources, education programs, communication systems and water wells.
Within the Fair Trade Certified co-ops, oppressive labor practices really are history (as in “long since passed”). As a condition of certification, co-ops guarantee fair labor conditions for farm workers, freedom of association for all and democratic decision-making processes. Self-determination and mutual respect are essential parts of the plan. The co-ops have regularly scheduled meetings and each co-op member, man or woman, has a say in the co-op’s investments and activities.
Neutral third-party organizations keep watch over both the suppliers and their customers to assure and protect the hard-fought Fair Trade values and standards. TransFairUSA, Wholesome’s partner in developing the program, today serves as an independent monitor, protecting the social and democratic standards established for Fair Trade, and maintaining environmental standards that foster sustainability. The standards specifically prohibit synthetic chemicals, GMOs, and practices that further damage the environment, such as burning and harvesting methods that remove precious topsoil.
In the few years since Wholesome rewrote the standards for environmentally and socially responsible sweeteners, a new group of cane growers and beekeepers have emerged. Now, more than ever, the industry aims to break the old cycles. There is still much work ahead, but a new cycle is emerging in sugar and honey production. If you’d like to learn more about our Fair Trade programs and their impacts, please visit http://www.wholesomesweeteners.com/fair_trade.html.
Thanks to you, Fair Trade really is making a difference.
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