“Fair Trade Enterprises: Inspirations, Lessons, and Opportunities” Alaina Paradise & Christina Stimson
Presented by Alaina Paradise (Founder and Director of One World Flowers), and Christina Stimson (Founder and Director of Fair World Partners).
On Friday, November 1st, 2013 Alaina Paradise (Founder and Director of One World Flowers), and Christina Stimson (Founder and Director of Fair World Partners) jointly presented on ‘Fair Trade Enterprises: Inspirations, Lessons, and Opportunities’. Our speakers shared their backgrounds and experiences as fair trade practitioners, helping us to link fair trade research issues with the challenges and opportunities of developing fair trade businesses.
Alaina Paradise reported how she was drawn to Fair Trade while completing an MBA business ethics course where she first learned about businesses which pursued social values as well as profits. Using the profits she made from an earlier start-up company, Alaina Paradise launched One World Flowers, a Fair Trade flower company that sells certified flowers to retailers and individual consumers largely via the company’s website.
To help us understand her business, Paradise explained the typical week for One World Flowers: flowers are cut in Ecuador on Tuesday, shipped overnight to Miami, and then sent on to local distributors all over the US for receipt by Thursday. Given the perishability of flowers everything has got to go smoothly. Paradise described the steep learning curve she faced in organizing and negotiating contracts to deliver her product in prime condition. She noted how difficult it is to provide certified bouquets (where at least 50% of stems must be Fair Trade certified), since she can provide certified roses, but it is hard to find certified foliage, fillers, or other types of flowers. Alaina Paradise has discovered that larger retailers are often unwilling to pay the Fair Trade price premium or deal with the certification restrictions. Despite these challenges, One World Flowers has found an important niche working with socially conscious buyers and continues to evolve its business model to meet growing demand.
Alaina Paradise reported with pride that One World Flowers has brought significant improvements to flower workers in Ecuador. With the 10% Fair Trade premium, on-site preschool, scholarships, microloans, and developmental courses could all be offered to the local community. Moreover, Paradise has donated 10% of her profits to human rights causes.
In the second half of our presentation, Christina Stimson described her experiences working in the field of Fair Trade. After completing a Sociology BA she was able to travel in South America where she became convinced of the need to pursue Fair Trade. Stimson completing a Masters in Non-profit Management and went to work for People of Hope Crafts, where she conducted research on Fair Trade products. She went on to found Fair World Partners to provide networks and improve conditions of third world artisanal producers, working as an accountant by day and a Fair Trade activist at night.
Stimson described her varied work experiences investigating the ability of artisans to produce, the organizational structure of artisanal groups, and the ‘fair price’ that artisans need to be paid. She discussed her interactions with different groups in a number of Latin American countries where every group had a unique set of challenges. In particular, she reported how due to the history of regional conflicts, artisan groups often have to work hard to overcome years of mistrust.
Christina Stimson detailed how she went about determining a “living wage” for artisans in El Salvador in order to illustrate the types of research challenges and opportunities involved in the field of Fair Trade. To determine what the fair price of the commodity should be Stimson had to figure out what standards of living should be set as the benchmark. She did intensive research on the ‘life necessities’ of the artisans, working with a number of local groups to gather information on financial needs and expenditures. Stimson noted that due to the ever-changing conditions in these locales, the ‘Fair Trade’ price needs to be constantly reviewed and their needs to be continuous programmatic oversight to ensure that the money goes into the right hands.