We are thrilled to welcome our new Director of Commercial Partnerships, Carlos Urmeneta. Carlos joined the Fairtrade team after nearly two decades of work in international trade and development with organizations including the UN World Food Program, ECOM Agroindustrial, International Development Enterprises and the Alliance for Water Stewardship.
In his role with Fairtrade America, Carlos is focused on cultivating commercial partnerships with brands and retailers in the US that are interested in becoming fair trade certified companies, working to bring the highest quality ethical products to consumers in the states and supporting the farmers behind them.
Get to know Carlos!
What drew you to Fairtrade?
Fairtrade is the most recognized ethical product label in the world, and it’s exciting to be part of the dedicated team that has helped to grow this important movement. I’ve worked in international development for many years, and through my own personal and professional experiences, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits that the Fairtrade system has on farmers, farm workers, their families and their communities.
Fairtrade puts growers themselves in charge of their destiny. Fairtrade sets up the safety nets that enable them to invest and grow in the ways that their particular communities need. It’s not only about the farm, it’s much more than that. It’s about the collective, the improvement of entire communities, ecosystems and the broader environment that farmers are living and working in. That’s the impact that Fairtrade as a connected, global system can have, and that’s the impact I wanted to be part of.
You have a personal connection to agricultural work, right? Can you talk a little bit more about your perspective and experience with farming in Central America?
I grew up In Honduras where my father and grandfather worked in the coffee and banana trade. I know how important these industries are for communities like mine. Early in my career I had the privilege of cultivating strategic partnerships that support growers in achieving sustainability in producing and marketing their crops, improving their lives and the quality of their production.
I’ve worked with farmers around the world who grow key export crops, and I’ve seen how growing and selling that single crop isn’t always enough to support their families. There’s a huge need for farmers to not only expand their global market access by selling their key crops, but to also develop other streams of revenue.
Through my personal and professional life, I’ve also seen just how uneven the playing field is for farmers. There’s a gap in access to tools like technology, financing or business skills education, and I see Fairtrade partnership as a pathway for farmers to have a stronger position and platform to grow and thrive.
What excites you most about your new role?
I’m thrilled to join the highly committed team behind the most globally recognized ethical label. Fairtrade is on an exciting trajectory here in the US. Awareness among shoppers is growing tremendously, and there’s a unique opportunity in this role to bring more US businesses and retailers into the global community working to meet their demand for ethical and sustainable products.
The plans for Fairtrade’s next years of growth and impact are really geared toward making the idea of treating people with dignity and respect a “normal” part of our daily behavior, including our purchasing choices. By building partnerships with US companies, we can make it as accessible as possible for consumers to choose Fairtrade certified items, thereby supporting farmers in gaining greater and greater access to the US market.
How do you aim to help grow the Fairtrade movement here in the US?
Global food systems need to become more resilient and inclusive to achieve long-term sustainability, and that includes ethical production. The Fairtrade Mark provides a market-driven approach to trade justice, and business buy-in is crucial. I’m committed to inviting as many businesses as possible to join us in this movement to make trade fair for everyone involved.
There are plenty of people who want to do the right thing. We’re ready to partner with companies now who are looking for ways to make their supply chains better for people and planet. With such a complex challenge, it can be hard to know where to start. But I want to show potential partners that Fairtrade certification – with a global network, carefully crafted and monitored Standards, and a farmer-led vision – is that place to start.
“Global food systems need to become more resilient and inclusive to achieve long-term sustainability, and that includes ethical production.” – Carlos Urmeneta, Fairtrade America Director of Commercial Partnership
As you’ve begun talking with companies, what have you learned so far?
The pandemic disrupted all of our lives in a big way and exacerbated the underlying issues affecting growers at origin and supply chains. An odd upside is that this has pushed companies and consumers to become more informed about where their products are coming from.
I recently attended the Specialty Food Association’s Summer Fancy Foods tradeshow, which offered a unique opportunity to connect in person and build partnerships with innovative brands who wish to increase their commitment to responsible sourcing. What I learned was that as people understand the issues of global trade, they are more aware of the importance of Fairtrade certification and the difference the Fairtrade system can make for farmers and for the planet.
Our team also had the opportunity to meet in person with existing and potential partners, and I am now more convinced and excited than ever about all the growth potential for Fairtrade in the North American market.
Learn more about Carlos and his team’s work with businesses who want to become fair trade certified companies at fairtradeamerica.org/get-certified. You can reach him at email@example.com.
We’re in this together
Fairtrade America partners with brands on the journey to certification and beyond. We can help with everything from finding a certified supply chain to marketing your newly certified product.Get in Touch