CalBusiness


Winter 2007

Feature Story

Your Haas Network

 

Paul Rice, MBA 96

President and CEO

TransFair USA

Oakland, Calif.

 

Paul Rice realized that his Fair Trade Certified label would succeed after coffee powerhouse Starbucks signed on in 2000. When Dunkin Donuts followed three years later, he knew Fair Trade, once scoffed at by corporate skeptics, had hit the big time.

 

"This concept of great-tasting products that also make a difference in the world is something that works even with mainstream consumers," says Rice, MBA 96, who is CEO of TransFair USA, which certifies and promotes fair trade products, including coffee, tea, bananas, and chocolate.

Rice's work turning Fair Trade Certified into a ubiquitous stamp that distinguishes products sold in over 40,000 stores started in the mountains of Nicaragua, where he ran a coffee export co-operative. "Farmers were able to double and even triple their net incomes, feed their families and keep their kids in school, thanks to direct market access and business development at the community level," he says.

 

Rice reinvented the European fair trade model, working with farmers to develop high-quality organic products that appeal to increasingly demanding consumers. Today, about 70 percent of all Fair Trade Certified products are organic.

 

Rice, who appeared on the December 2006 cover of Fast Company as a three-time winner of the magazine's Social Capitalist award, views corporate America as an ally, not an enemy, in his quest to empower the poor.

 

Now Costco, Wal-Mart, and McDonald's sell fair trade products. TransFair has certified a whopping 150 million pounds of coffee in the past eight years. That has helped put over $100 million of additional income in the pockets of underprivileged farmers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. "What's cool is that we've made it so easy for ordinary Americans, with something as simple as a cup of coffee, to touch the lives of millions of families around the world," Rice says.

Paul Rice, MBA 96

Paul Rice, MBA 96
President and CEO
TransFair USA
Oakland, Calif.