SunSelect Extends Fair Trade Certification to California
With the recent Fair Trade certification of SunSelect Produce’s operation in Tehachapi, Calif., 100 percent of the progressive grower’s harvest now qualifies to bear the esteemed socially responsible seal.
While achieving the certification could have compelling commercial implications—especially with recent research indicating that more than two thirds of the shopping public now recognizes the Fair Trade seal—Edith Gubiotti, SunSelect’s vice president of human resources and administration, points to what matters most: The difference the certification is making in the lives of SunSelect’s labor force.
“We have experienced the impact of Fair Trade certification as our BC program evolved through the last several seasons,” said Gubiotti, noting that SunSelect’s Canadian operation became the first Fair Trade producer in the “global north” when it was certified in 2014.
“Approximately 135 employees, including roughly 120 men and women from rural areas in Guatemala who travel to work with us annually, have used the premiums earned through the sale of SunSelect Fair Trade Certified™ peppers to address urgent needs in their communities and invest in future income for their families,” she continued. “Recent updates to the Fair Trade standards give workers more direct access to income generated by the premiums.”
Fair Trade premiums are additional sums of money that go into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use as they see fit to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions.
Bringing the certification to SunSelect’s California greenhouses, which are dedicated to sweet bell peppers, tomatoes-on-the-vine and specialty tomatoes, will touch the lives and neighborhoods of the roughly 300 individuals who pick, pack, ship and undertake other responsibilities at their greenhouse operation in Tehachapi.
“The Fair Trade seal signifies high-quality products that are grown with care for people on both ends of the spectrum―the workers and the consumers―while respecting the world around us,” Gubiotti said. “The certification sets a high standard for responsible farming practices, fair treatment of workers, environmental stewardship, and great tasting products that can differentiate at retail because they align with shopper values. We’re very proud that every piece of produce grown in a SunSelect greenhouse is now eligible to wear the Fair Trade seal.”
SunSelect decided to certify its U.S. operation to further demonstrate the commitment to sustainable values it has cultivated for 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 sustainable leader.
“We are proud to partner with SunSelect in continuing to expand Fair Trade, most recently with the Fair Trade certification of their greenhouse in California,” said Nathalie Marin-Gest, interim director of produce & floral at Fair Trade USA. “We are excited to help bring these certified tomatoes and bell peppers to market, further empowering SunSelect’s farm workers to build sustainable livelihoods for their families and communities.”
With consumer awareness and appreciation of the Fair Trade Certified seal on the uptick, as noted in the 2016 NMI State of Sustainability in America study, SunSelect is well-positioned to make the most of the opportunity.
“The general public’s recognition of the Fair Trade seal is up from 38 percent in 2008 to 67 percent last year,” said James Milne, vice president of marketing for Oppy, SunSelect’s exclusive marketing partner. “Awareness is even higher in some segments, topping at 73 percent with Millennials, who generally exhibit strong sustainability ideals and values, and seek out products that align with them.”
SunSelect products are marketed under the Outrageously Fresh brand.
Between SunSelect and Divemex Oppy offers Fair Trade Certified sweet bell peppers year-round.