The brand made its mark as the first “raw” and high pressure processed coconut water on the market, and today, Harmless Harvest can boast about a new title, that of the first American coconut water brand to be fair trade certified by Fair for Life, an organization which aims to ensure social accountability at all stages of production.
In its assessment, Fair for Life praised Harmless Harvest as being “meticulous about setting up their business to benefit fair trade, the environment, and health,” noting its creation of a subsidiary in Thailand as a way to “ensure excellent working conditions” at its production facility, which is also certified by the fair trade organization.
“Offering stable, fair wages to farmers, directly employing the people who manufacture their product, establishing a safe environment with fair wages and benefits for all employees, and utilizing a fair trade premium that goes towards social initiatives in local communities embody the Fair for Life ethos,” Fair for Life representative Kerry Hughes said in a release.
Harmless Harvest first began the certification process with Fair for Life in May, 2013, approximately five months after Whole Foods sent a letter to its coconut water suppliers asking them for supply chain audits and “to be proactive in pursuing higher level ethical sourcing and sustainability certifications.”
Whole Foods is by far the largest retailer of Harmless Harvest products, and while several other coconut water brands carried by the natural retailer have since achieved fair trade accreditation via Fair Trade USA, the largest certifier of consumer goods, Harmless’s 100% Raw Coconut Water is the first in the U.S. to be vetted by Fair for Life.
Errol Schweizer, the executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods, commended Harmless Harvest as being not only “a sales and innovation leader, but a pioneer in ethical sourcing,” adding that the retailer “couldn’t be prouder.”
Harmless Harvest co-founder Justin Guilbert told BevNET that the company would phase in the addition of the Fair for Life seal and language to its label over the next few months.
Here is the full release from Harmless Harvest announcing the certification:
Harmless Harvest Becomes America’s First Fair Trade – Fair for Life Certified Coconut Water
September 15, 2014 – Continually demonstrating its dedication to the long-term welfare of all stakeholders, Harmless Harvest is proud to become the first American coconut water to be Fair for Life – Social & Fair Trade certified. Fair for Life certification requires successfully passing extensive yearly audits covering a range of aspects, from good environmental practices to farmers’ wages and well-being to the working conditions at Harmless Harvest’s operations in Thailand and the United States. The findings are published on the Fair for Life website:
Harmless Harvest has been meticulous about setting up their business to benefit fair trade, the environment, and health. The company has set up a subsidiary in Thailand to ensure excellent working conditions at the factory, and has gotten the subsidiary certified Fair for Life. The US company has grown exponentially since its inception, and the company has maintained great benefits and salaries during this growth. This coming year will be the first that the company will generate a fair trade premium, and it is looking forward to creating funds for health- and education-related improvements in Thailand. (IMO Fair for Life)*
Deciding to partner with IMO: Fair for Life was not a quick decision for Harmless Harvest. “Committing to a long-term partnership with a fair trade certifier is pivotal to verifying our ecosystem-based business model,” says Harmless Harvest co-founder Douglas Riboud. From the beginning, Harmless Harvest looked to companies respected for their environmental and social mindfulness, such as Whole Foods Market, which lead to a partnership with IMO to develop a full-scale social and environmental program.
“Four years ago we took a chance on these guys and launched their brand,” said Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “Since then, they have not only proven to be a sales and innovation leader, but a pioneer in ethical sourcing. We couldn’t be prouder.”
“Harmless Harvest’s commitment to fair trade practices is evident throughout their supply chain. Offering stable, fair wages to farmers, directly employing the people who manufacture their product, establishing a safe environment with fair wages and benefits for all employees, and utilizing a fair trade premium that goes towards social initiatives in local communities embody the Fair for Life ethos,” explains Fair for Life representative Kerry Hughes.
With the commercial success of their first project, 100% Raw & Organic Coconut Water, Harmless Harvest immediately invested in the rural community at the source by building its facility in the area, creating over 100 full -time jobs. “Direct involvement allows for transparency along with better control and knowledge of how our products are made. More importantly, it fully integrates the community in our shared success, rather than ‘giving back’ a small piece of the bottom line,” explains Harmless Harvest co-founder Justin Guilbert.
“We have been able to take these steps only because of consumers’ support and the resources that comes with it. It is the ultimate positive feedback loop.” Douglas Riboud adds, “Without the retailers and customers that believed in us early on, we would not be here delivering on our promise to make better products from better sources.”
“At Harmless Harvest, we focus on making, not marketing,” says Guilbert. “Rather than spending on advertising, paid endorsements and cut rate promotions, we concentrate our resources on the raw material, source, manufacturing, and quality which has fostered the true support of a growing and engaged community that fuels our continuous improvement. Being pioneers in this fragmented and murky category gives us a responsibility to show that companies can be truly environmental conscious, socially progressive, and commercially successful; these are not disconnected ideas, but essential characteristics of a modern company that delivers better food for all.”
About Harmless Harvest
Founded in 2009 by Douglas Riboud and Justin Guilbert, Harmless Harvest is a progressive food & beverage initiative set on demonstrating that an ecosystem-based business model can and should be how food is made. By combining innovative scientific methods with local traditional knowledge, Harmless Harvest integrates the long-term welfare of all its stakeholders – from plant to customer – in the creation of better products for all. For more information, visit www.harmlessharvest.com.
About Fair for Life
The Fair for Life Programme is a third party certification standard for Social Accountability and Fair Trade and has been designed as a solution for operators world-wide who want to create a Fair Trade product line (‘Fair for Life’ certification) or wish to demonstrate Social Responsibility (‘for Life’ certification).