March 26, 2014

SunSelect earns Fair Trade certification

Every new season holds promise, but this year at SunSelect Produce, the harvest promises more than just a beautiful crop of high quality peppers. It promises to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who make the harvest itself possible.

When SunSelect, of Aldergrove, B.C., achieved Fair Trade certification in early 2014, it became the first farm in the global north to do so. Along with Fair Trade USA and The Oppenheimer Group, the leading greenhouse pepper grower has embarked on a new learning journey to discover how Fair Trade principles can benefit workers in the global north, in addition to those in the global south.

Approximately 120 SunSelect employees―including roughly 100 men and women from rural communities in Guatemala―will apply the premiums earned through the sale of Fair Trade Certified peppers to projects that address urgent needs in their communities.

“To be recognized in this manner is to honor commitments made to our customers, our staff and our global community,” said Len Krahn, executive manager of SunSelect. “Our top priorities in our lives and our business―to care for the well-being of others and our natural surroundings―haven’t changed, but have been reinforced by the certification process. We are honored to have been selected to join Fair Trade USA on this path, as we see that the Fair Trade principles are critical to the sound operations of all farming in all territories of the world.”

SunSelect was among the first farms in Western Canada to implement a program that enabled people from Guatemala to work in their greenhouses. A solid commitment to its diverse workforce of Canadian citizens and migrant workers, along with an active concern for environmental stewardship, made SunSelect a strong partner for this Fair Trade journey, according to Mary Jo Cook, chief impact officer at Fair Trade USA. Another important reason is the potential to increase the impact of Fair Trade for workers in multiple regions, as the SunSelect season is complementary to the pepper harvest in Mexico, where Fair Trade Certified bell peppers currently come from.

“For the last 15 years, Fair Trade USA has worked primarily with farmers and workers in the developing world,” said Cook. “Through this journey we’ve also come to realize that agricultural workers, whether in the global north or the global south, share common challenges. This is the impetus for our work with SunSelect, and is why we’re learning all we can as we explore the potential of a globally inclusive Fair Trade model.”

Fair Trade is about high-quality products that are grown with care for farmers, care for the environment, and care for the consumer. This approach has made Fair Trade Certified the gold standard for responsible farming practices, fair treatment of workers, environmental protection, and great tasting products. It’s also become an important indication of a company’s values and an effective way to build consumer loyalty.

SunSelect views Fair Trade certification as an opportunity to further demonstrate its commitment to sustainable values, which have been cultivated over many years. By prioritizing renewable resource use, implementing rigorous carbon management practices―including proprietary GC6 green carbon capture technology and climate friendly production standards―and pioneering green packaging, SunSelect has earned its reputation as a leader.

“We are taking this new and exciting step forward to see how Fair Trade can benefit our workers, and also to offer our customers the chance to differentiate in a meaningful way,” said Krahn.

John Anderson, chairman, president and CEO of The Oppenheimer Group, sees this as a terrific opportunity to make a difference in many lives while providing discerning consumers with a high quality item that resonates with their values.

“SunSelect has proven their commitment to environmental and social responsibility over the years, but Fair Trade certification elevates their efforts to an even higher level,” he said. “We’re proud to market the first Fair Trade Certified peppers grown in North America, just as we were when we introduced the first Fair Trade peppers from Mexico—grown by our partner Divemex―to our customers a few years ago.”

Oppy now offers Fair Trade Certified sweet bell peppers year round.


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