People & Planet Award Winners: 3 small businesses honored empowering workers in developing nations and conflict zones

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From Olive Oil in Palestine to Natural Body Lotions in Ghana: $5,000 Prizes Awarded to Companies in Illinois, Oregon and Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, DC—December 11, 2014—In a time of rising global poverty and disparities in wealth, Green America is recognizing three American small businesses that are combatting these ills by economically empowering workers in developing nations and conflict zones, including Palestine, Ghana, and India.

These three small businesses are the winners in Green America’s quarterly “People & Planet Award,” which recognizes innovative small U.S. businesses that deeply integrate environmental and social considerations into their strategies and operations. The winners of this quarter’s award, focusing on worker empowerment, are: Canaan Fair Trade, Madison, WI; Meta Traders, Chicago, IL; and Ojoba Collective, Portland, OR. Each of the three winners will receive $5,000. The three small businesses were selected by the public during a month-long online voting period at Green America’s website.

Alisa Gravitz, president of Green America said: “These ‘People & Planet’ award winners have inspired us at Green America. Instead of focusing only on profits, these entrepreneurs have seized the opportunity to bring incredible products to the U.S. market in a way that lifts communities around the world.”

The winning companies are:

  • Canaan Fair Trade, Madison, WI. www.canaanusa.com. Canaan Fair Trade is a social entrepreneurship company that helps to bring certified fair trade, USDA organic products sourced from Jenin, Palestine to markets across the U.S. and Europe. The company offers a vital outlet for entrepreneurs in Palestine to lift their communities through fair trade practices and development.
  • Ojoba Collective, Portland, OR. ojobacollective.com/about-us. Ojoba Collective is a fair trade company that organizes and works directly with women’s cooperatives in rural Ghana to produce shea butter, baobab oil, and other natural body care ingredients. When Ojoba Collective began in 2003, most of the affected population lived on less than $1 per day. Ojoba Collective has since built production facilities and cooperatives in these villages, which have created economic opportunity for more than 500 women and their families.
  • Mata Traders, Chicago, IL. matatraders.com. Mata Traders is a fashion brand that sells beautiful clothing and designs crafted by organizations and women’s cooperatives in India and Nepal that educate, employ, and empower women. Mata Traders supports artisan families that struggle to compete with low-cost and often exploitive textile factories in these nations. Mata Traders’s apparel and accessories are designed in Chicago and handmade by women’s cooperatives and artisan groups in India and Nepal that pay fair wages and provide safe working conditions.

Nasser Abufahra, founder of Canann Fair Trade, said: "We are thrilled to have this recognition from Green America especially by popular vote. We are excited for the exposure that this award gives to Palestinian small scale farmers who cultivate olive trees that span between eight and 2000 years of age. We will invest this award to further empower small scale, low impact farming in Palestine that competes with industrial farming in production scale and quality."

Tracy Wulfers, co-founder of Ojoba Collective, said: "We are honored to win this award, not just because the prize money will help us purchase more solar cookers and rocket stoves to green our production facility, but because it signals a changing tide in consumer attitudes. Fair Trade is a growing movement because people are realizing we can’t create a healthier planet without building communities of healthy, empowered people to do the work."

Maureen Dunn, founder of Mata Traders, said: "We're so happy to receive this award for worker empowerment because it recognizes the incredible work our partner organizations are doing to not only offer meaningful employment but also to create grassroots change within their communities. Their hard work has helped us build a successful fashion brand and bring socially-conscious options to the American marketplace."

The next round of Green America’s quarterly award will be given to three green businesses with 50 or fewer employees that focus on worker empowerment.

The businesses that the public vote on are determined by public nominations and an expert panel of judges: Katie Galloway and Gigi Abbadie, Aveda; Justin Conway, Calvert Foundation; Deven Clemens, Clif Bar; Renee Bowers, Fair Trade Federation; Mary Kearns, Herban Lifestyle; Jenny Burns, Honest Tea; Jonathan Reinbold, Organic Valley; Martin Wolf, Seventh Generation; and Andrew Korfhage and Fran Teplitz, Green America.

ABOUT GREEN AMERICA

Green America is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems.