Fair Trade USA last week named Sugumar Raman chief program officer. The announcement comes as the nonprofit is considering sweeping changes to its core coffee certification program.
Raman comes to Oakland-based Fair Trade USA from Flocert, the auditing and verification agency that assures Fairtrade compliance throughout supply streams in numerous agricultural sectors. Raman worked for Germany-based Flocert in multiple capacities over more than a decade, most recently serving as director of operations.
Raman’s appointment comes as Fair Trade USA enters its Innovation for Impact Initiative, a multi-stakeholder initiative expected to result in significant changes to Fair Trade USA’s coffee certification program. Fair Trade USA has enlisted the organizational design firm Ideo.org as a key partner in the project.
The Innovation for Impact Initiative followed a historic announcement by a separate organization, Fairtrade International, that it was raising its guaranteed prices for certified green coffee for the first time since 2011.
Initially founded as a national branch of Fairtrade in 1998, Fair Trade USA split from Fairtrade International in 2011 while softening certification standards to allow certification from larger plantation farms. At that time, Fair Trade USA voluntarily agreed to maintain the price minimums established by Fairtrade International, yet Fair Trade USA opted not to match the new, higher price minimums that took effect this August. Instead, the group announced it was freezing prices at least through 2023, despite higher costs of production and sustained price volatility affecting farmers throughout the green coffee sector.
In an announcement last week, Fair Trade USA suggested that Raman will play a key role in designing and implementing the group’s certification programs “with the goal of increasing the organization’s scope and scale of impact and tackling some of the most pressing global challenges.”
“We are extremely lucky to have Sugumar join our team,” Fair Trade USA Founder and CEO Paul Rice said in the announcement. “His years of leadership experience on the front lines of the global sustainable sourcing movement will be a tremendous asset to our organization as we continue to reimagine how to best deliver the deepest and broadest impact to the farmers and planet we serve.”
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