In another sweeping move to transform the lives of North American agricultural workers, snacking tomato leader and Certified B Corporation NatureSweet has announced that 100% of its branded snacking tomato products are now Fair Trade Certified.
All NatureSweet branded tomatoes — including Cherubs, Glorys, Constellation, Comets, Twilights and D’Vines — are now grown in accordance with Fair Trade Certified’s rigorous safety, environmental protection and sustainable livelihood standards.
The move to 100% Fair Trade Certified production ensures NatureSweet produce is harvested and packaged in an environment with safe working conditions, where workers earn sustainable, livable wages. The company is also putting profits behind the certification move to improve workers’ lives even more.
Community development contributions
Through NatureSweet’s Fair Trade Certified commitment, a percentage of profits from all NatureSweet’s Fair Trade Certified products — called a Fair Trade Premium — are contributed to an employee-run community development fund. The fund helps support initiatives that are transforming the lives of NatureSweet’s more than 6,000 North American agricultural workers, directly employed NatureSweet Associates.
The community development fund dates back to 2021, when NatureSweet partnered with Walmart to launch a pilot program to sell Fair Trade Certified tomatoes. Proceeds stemming from that initiative, paid by Walmart, helped launch the fund. With Walmart’s support, $1 million has been generated annually to support the employee-driven community development fund initiatives.
Now with NatureSweet’s expanded Fair Trade commitment, the company will finance the fund with a portion of proceeds from snacking tomato sales. The company anticipates the expansion will generate more than $3 million annually — roughly tripling the community development program’s potential to improve the lives of company Associates and their families.
Community development impact
Since the NatureSweet community development fund’s inception, $2.4 million has been invested in providing company workers with livable wages, literacy and education opportunities, and funds for community development projects. Under the employee-run program, Fair Trade Committees comprised of NatureSweet Associates decide and direct where resources should go.
Some of the programs supported by the initiative include:
- Dental care – The program provides associates access to care from dental hygienists and dentists, including preventative cleanings and services. Prior to the program, 70% of Associates had not received dental care. Now, more than 1,000 have. The program also provides Associates with vouchers so that their family members can access dental care in their local community.
- Nutrition counseling and healthy food – Dietitians provide nutritional counseling and monthly meal plans in line with healthy eating recommendations. The fund also led to the creation of a food pantry stocked with nutritious food options that Associates can easily access.
- Eye care – Associates receive eye exams and glasses free of charge, thanks to the program. Before the fund, 40% of Associates and their family members suffered from visual problems and were not able to get vision care.
To date, more than 2,100 NatureSweet employees have benefitted from six projects that have been implemented this year. “I am grateful for the program because I urgently needed eyeglasses and did not have the resources to pay for them. Thanks to the Fair Trade Committee and their support, I was able to obtain them,” said Maria Guadalupe Sepulveda de Leon, a NatureSweet Associate.
Expanding with industry partners
NatureSweet has expanded the Fair Trade program with multiple partners in the industry. The company estimates the industry expansion could impact more than 10,000 agricultural workers.
“Our associates are not only the reason for our success, but they are also the ‘why’ behind what we do,” said Rodolfo Spielmann, President and CEO of NatureSweet. “Our desire is to give our workers the best we can because they earn it, including education and competitive wages. We invite all growers to join in the movement.”
Paul Rice is the founder and CEO of Fair Trade USA, the leading certifier of Fair Trade products in North America. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization’s award-winning, rigorous and globally recognized sustainable sourcing certification programs improve livelihoods, protect the environment and build resilient, transparent supply chains. The trusted Fair Trade Certified label on a product signifies that it was made according to stringent Fair Trade standards.
“NatureSweet’s life-changing initiatives are an example of the positive difference one company can make in an entire industry,” said Rice. “We are excited about their work and can’t wait to see others join the movement.”
NatureSweet announced in June that the company had achieved B Corporation Certification, the largest CEA employer to do so. In addition to the programs noted above, NatureSweet works to improve the lives of its Associates in other ways.
The company pays its workers a livable wage approximately 40% above the median wage for agricultural workers in Mexico. It also invests in literacy and educational opportunities, including a recent bachelor’s degree program pilot, and mental health is prioritized through providing one-on-one therapy and a three-month self-improvement program covering topics from human development to parenting, communication and problem-solving.
Images courtesy of NatureSweet.