Press release

Finance Alliance For Sustainable Trade (FAST)

April 30, 2007

May 6 launch in Long Beach, California

Image removed.

Winnipeg, April 30, 2007 – Following in the footsteps of the micro-finance industry, small-and medium-sized enterprise (SME) finance – aimed at organizations like coffee (and other commodity) cooperatives – has seen rapid growth in recent years. The SME finance industry, economists believe, is poised to become the next revolution in banking for the poor.

On Sunday May 6 2007 the Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST), a new organization aimed at developing a coordinated, long-term vision for the SME finance industry, will celebrate their official launch of operations.

FAST has evolved out of a recognized need to improve the delivery of finance and financial management tools to producers in the sustainable trade arena. Millions of the world's poorest producers of agricultural (and other) commodities lack access to the basic financial resources essential to the sustainability and prosperity of their businesses. Historically, a chronic lack of access to capital in the Developing World has stunted the growth and limited profitability of businesses rooted in low-income communities.

Recent growth in markets for "sustainably produced products" however, has created new opportunities for developing country producers to sell higher priced, value added products and create more stable trading relationships. Entry into such markets however, typically requires additional capital and investment – a major road block for many producers. FAST will help facilitate producer adoption of sustainable practices and entry into sustainable markets by improving their access to vital credit and financial services.

The creation of better access to business finance is widely considered a vital tool in poverty reduction and rural development, especially since small to medium enterprises are the most important drivers of economic growth in developing countries.

"Like the micro finance industry, SME finance creates opportunities that stretch far beyond the primary loan recipient in the developing world", says Jason Potts, FAST steering committee member and Coordinator of the Sustainable Commodity Initiative (International Institute for Sustainable Development).

"From producer to retailer to investor - the entire sustainable trade industry stands to benefit from improved efficiency and collaboration in the SME finance industry. FAST will help make financial opportunities a reality for thousands of producers in the developing world" says Potts.

FAST will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders for the first time, who will work collectively to increase the number of producers in developing nations who can successfully access quality trade finance, tailored to their business needs, as they enter sustainable markets.

An international, member driven, non-profit association, FAST will represent financial institutions and producers dedicated to bringing "sustainably produced products" to market. Members will include commercial lenders, socially oriented and alternative lending institutions, sustainable SME producer organisations, development focused institutions and others in the agricultural commodities supply chain who have made explicit commitments to promote sustainable production and trading practices within their respective capacities.

To date a wide range of leading organisations have been involved in the establishment of FAST. Some of the organisations involved include Citigroup Foundation, Cooperative Coffees, Conservation International, CORDAID, Ecologic Finance, Forestrade, Green Development Foundation, Green Mountain Coffee, International Institute of Sustainable Development, Rabobank, Shared Interest, Starbucks, Technoserve, Transfair USA, Calvert, UNCTAD and the World Bank.

FAST has planned an inspirational launch event this Sunday May 6, scheduled to coincide with the Specialty Coffee Association of America's (SCAA) annual convention in Long Beach California.

The FAST Launch - open invitation:

  • Sunday May 6 2007, 5:00pm - 7:00pm
    At the SCAA Annual Convention in Long Beach California
    Long Beach Convention Centre, concourse level, off main lobby, outside rooms 101-103
    300 East Ocean Boulevard Long Beach, California 90802

Open invitation to all media representatives:

For more information on FAST visit or contact:

  • Roy Parizat
    FAST Project Coordinator
    International Institute for Sustainable Development
    Phone: +44 (0)191 281 7090

  • Kimberley Kenney
    FAST Media Contact
    Communications – Sustainable Commodity Initiative
    International Institute for Sustainable Development
    Phone: +44 (0)191 281 7090

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.