The World Fairtrade Organisation is the global community of social enterprises that fully practice fair trade. Their guarantee system verifies that their members are truly fair trade enterprises. This means they pioneer models of business that put people and planet first. We spoke to CEO Erinch Sahan to find out more.

Why did you join the Rapid Transition Alliance?

There’s a need to transform business and our economies from profit-primacy to mission-primacy, if we are to avoid ecological crises and social collapse. We at WFTO are working to highlight that a global community of businesses have shown a proof of concept. These are the 350+ social enterprises that fully practice fair trade. Working together with like-minded groups in the Rapid Transition Alliance is a critical part of this journey.

What for you is the biggest challenge of rapid transition?

The biggest challenge is avoiding the win-win philosophy that the transition will be painless, won’t result in reduced profits for some, and won’t involve trade-offs. It is uncomfortable and inconvenient, and telling people they should get on board because they can make more money by doing so prevents the systemic transformations and hard choices that are truly needed. 

What is your organisation doing to encourage rapid transition?

  1. Showing that commercial viability is distinct from profit maximisation 
  2. Supporting enterprises who are embodying the principles and structures that are required in the rapid transition, by gaining market access and visibility with buyers and consumers
  3. Creating a support network across the social entrepreneurs who lead such businesses.

What is your favourite example of rapid transition?

The circular economy story because it is potentially a radical change in markets, consumption and trade.

What one thing would best help the task of rapid transition?

A bold ask for governments and finance markets to actively target support and finance to social enterprises.

How has the global pandemic affected your feelings on rapid transition?

It’s even more urgent, more necessary, and more uncompromisable now. The crisis shows economies can be halted and reshaped. So let’s do this deliberately to save our planet and species.


Erinch Sahan

Erinch Sahan is the Chief Executive of WFTO. Before coming to WFTO, Erinch spent seven years at Oxfam, where he founded Oxfam’s Future of Business Initiative and led several initiatives including Oxfam’s Behind the Brand scorecard.