Fair Trade Sports Looks to Play in Fair Trade, Eco-Friendly Game


Some fair trade products, such as coffee or handicrafts, have become very common—and in fact, consumers have come to expect fair trade choices when shopping in the grocery store or certain kinds of shops. But when was the last time you watched a soccer game and wondered if the rubber in the ball was sourced from sustainably managed rubber tree forests? Or whether the uniforms were made by fairly-paid adults (and not impoverished children)? As the fair trade movement evolves, it is extending to evermore product categories—as evidenced by Fair Trade Sports.

Fair Trade Sports founder Scott James says that his company makes the first-ever line of sports balls that are certified green and certified fair trade (more on what that means later). The company, which is based on lovely Bainbridge Island in the Puget Sound, plans to donate all after-tax profits—once it starts making profits—to charities focused on kids (following the Newman’s Own business model). Until then, it plans to donate $1000 each year to Boys & Girls Club of America and Room to Read.

Its products include both sports balls—including soccer, football, basketball, volleyball and rugby—and apparel, which it sells through retail and wholesale channels.

Fair Trade Sports is a B Corp; B Corp is a  new business sector designation which recognizes companies that meet a set of social, environmental and institutional benchmarks for sustainability. It earns its eco-friendly label by sourcing the rubber used in the balls, which are made in Pakistan, from rubber tree plants in FSC-certified forests in India and Sri Lanka. And its fair trade certification, which includes a third party certification that the adult workers are paid well and provided with good working environments, comes from the Fair Trade Federation. Fair Trade Sports says it does not employ children—and that its strategy is to help eradicate child labor by paying wages that are generous enough for adults to support their families.

So there you go. Proof that fair trade products and environmentally friendly manufacturing are creeping into new product categories and new markets. With big-box stores looking to increase the number of fair trade and eco-friendly products they sell, Fair Trade Sports is well-positioned to score.

Freelance writer Mary Catherine O'Connor finds that a growing number of companies are proving the ways that they can make good financially, socially and environmentally (as the triple bottom line theory suggests).With that in mind, she contributes to Triple Pundit, as well as to Earth2Tech and other pubs focused on sustainability. She also writes The Good Route, an Outside Magazine blog that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the active/outdoor life.To find out more, or to reach her, go to www.mcoconnor.com.

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