Chobani Launches The First Fair Trade-Certified Dairy Product In The U.S.

Billionaire yogurt entrepreneur Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of food company Chobani, has long been known as an innovator and someone whose company supports refugees and immigrants. On Thursday, Chobani—known for its Greek yogurt—becomes the first in the U.S. dairy industry to be certified with the Fair Trade seal of approval. The certification, bestowed by a nonprofit trade group called Fair Trade USA, indicates that Chobani—a $1.5 billion (2020 revenues) company with 2,200 employees—has been working with U.S. farms and cooperatives to improve working conditions.

The rollout of Fair Trade-certified products will take time, according to Ulukaya. For now, the company is releasing Fair Trade-certified versions of its 32 ounce tubs of yogurt. The goal is to do the same with dozens of products it has, he told Forbes in an interview on Tuesday. 

The Fair Trade certification process requires the farmers that businesses buy from to improve on their labor practices—such as safe work conditions, humane work hours, protections against harassment and discrimination—as well as their environmental footprint, from carbon emissions to water use. “It’s not just a philosophy,” says Paul Rice, the founder and chief executive of Fair Trade USA. “It’s actually a rigorous 200-point checklist of social, labor and environmental criteria.” For example, the nonprofit, which also works with chocolate and cocoa farmers in developing countries, requires farmers to pay their employees at least monthly, provide written contracts for temporary workers employed more than a certain amount of time, and give employees at least six days of vacation each year. 

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