Chicago Fair Trade (CFT) is the largest fair trade coalition in the USA, comprised of a dedicated base of member businesses, educational institutions, congregations, non-profit organizations, and individual activists. CFT increases support for economic and environmental justice through consumer education, advocacy, and promotion of local fair trade businesses. CFT is proud to be a local and national leader in raising awareness about and building support for fair trade and its principles of environmental sustainability, ethical production methods, fair wages, and safe working conditions.
About Fair Trade
Fair trade is an alternative business model that focuses on the triple bottom line: people, the planet, and profits. More than 1 billion of the world’s population survive on less than $1 per day. Fair trade aims to combat this widespread poverty by providing opportunity for economically disadvantaged producers, cultivating transparent trade partnerships, ensuring safe working conditions and the rights of women and children, and focusing on environmental sustainability through all stages of production.
If you’d like to learn more about fair trade, visit the World Fair Trade Organization’s website here.
The Chicago area has a thriving fair trade economy, which is unmatched anywhere in the United States. We boast more than fifty fair trade businesses, and our numbers are growing every day. By partnering with entrepreneurs, consumers, and activists, we can use our buying power for good and help this economy of empowerment continue to grow and thrive.
Not sure how to spot fair trade products? Look for these logos when shopping:
Chicago Fair Trade was formed in 2006 by a small, dedicated group of activists and volunteers. Over the years, our coalition has grown to more than 70 business, institutional, and individual members. We are proud to have been the driving force behind Chicago being named a Fair Trade City in 2011, and a Sweatshop-Free City in 2014, and Cook County becoming the largest Sweatfree Municipality in the US in 2015.
Our Board of Directors
Katherine Bissell-Cordova, Executive Director
Having worked for social justice movements dedicated towards human rights, immigrant rights, and workers rights for over twenty years all across the world from Chicago to Guatemala to Honduras, Katherine Bissell Cordova has gracefully taken on the role as the Executive Director of Chicago Fair Trade. Her dedication to human rights and fair trade is reflected in her well rounded experience throughout the world and her receiving the Casa Guatemala’s Human Rights Award. She was also recently appointed as a co-chair to the Fair Trade Campaigns’ National Steering Committee. Katherine currently lives in Chicago with her two children, Sofia, a budding artist, and Mateo who is showing telltale signs of being a future organizer. Her hobbies include a newfound passion for gardening and cooking delicious dinners for CFT board meetings.
Erika Herrera founded Sandpiper Imports in 2012 after a long career in corporate retail management. Her desire to make an impact on others’ lives and her interest in socially responsible consumerism aligned and led her to start a fair trade business. She works directly with a group of silversmith artisans in Bali, Indonesia who design and handcraft sterling silver jewelry. She became a Chicago Fair Trade business member and is continually inspired by the amazing network of supportive and passionate people in the community working together to support fair trade. She joined the board of directors in 2014 and has since been serving as the membership chair. Sandpiper Imports is also a proud member of The Fair Trade Federation. Her favorite hobbies include traveling (especially to Bali to visit her artisans!), exercising on the 606, and spending time with her loved ones.
While “don’t be afraid to try something new” is Jonit’s personal motto, the simplest way to describe Jonit is to say: she has goals. This ambition is well reflected in the origin of Mata Traders, a CFT business member founded by Jonit and her friends. Jonit achieved a master’s degree in sustainable development before embarking on world travels with these friends, empowering their clan. One thing lead to another, and now the trio are running a fair trade fashion company together. Though these women had no background in fashion or business, the company has been growing steadily with a learn-as-go-you, do-it-yourself approach. Furthermore, whether it’s to maintaining a thriving houseplant collection, getting to know each and every Mata Traders artisan (there are several hundred), or mastering the international game of billiards, Jonit will do it with utmost zeal.
Faith-based Members (profiles coming soon) Maggie Tobin (St. Clement),
Joanna Arellano (Office for Peace & Justice)
Andrea Dennis is a dreamer and a doer. As the Outreach Director at Greenheart International, a CFT business member, she leads workshops on global leadership and facilitates retreats for youth and adults on personal development and social action. Equipped with immense knowledge and experience, she has presented at conferences on service learning, facilitating exchanges, and other personal development practices. Furthermore, she directs the fundraising and development initiatives of Greenheart International. Outside Greenheart, she has been a dedicated member of the CFT board and a generous volunteer as a mentor with the Big Brother Big Sister program and with the elderly of the Caring Companions program. Andrea is a certified yoga instructor, a Chicago explorer by way of her 1989 Pink Schwinn bike, and she enjoys dabbling in homemade products.
Jan’s professional experience includes a successful marketing career in a number of Fortune 500 corporations for 14 years, followed by passionate leadership positions championing fair trade initiatives for the last 5 years. Her involvement in fair trade began with organizing events at her church, Christ United Methodist, in Deerfield, Il. In 2011, Jan sought to further increase awareness of fair trade and with the support of Chicago Fair Trade (CFT), she organized an advocacy group, the North Suburban Fair Trade Network. Acknowledging Jan’s contributions, CFT presented Jan with the annual Changemaker Award in 2013. Jan continues to advocate for fair trade in speaking engagements at several women’s groups and church events, and in an annual fair trade holiday gift boutique. She lives in Deerfield, Il with her husband, Rob, and their two sons, Matthew, 18 years old, and Alex, 15 years old.
Stephanie Ochoa, a graduate of Loyola University with degrees in International Relations and Business, is the youngest board member of Chicago Fair Trade. Having started volunteering with CFT 2 years ago, the Board was enamored by her passion and drive. Stephanie has helped expand CFT’s network by persistently pursuing new members and collaborating with well-known fair trade brands such as Ellen Fisher and Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream. She believes involvement with Chicago Fair Trade is an opportunity for people to participate in the positive transformation of the Windy City. She feels people need to pay attention to the world’s suffering and take action! Intentions are noble, but with no action there is no change. Stephanie inspires her generation to be conscious consumers and to increase awareness for fair labor practices by presenting at universities, conferences, and at Chicago Fair Trade’s Student Summit. Her puppy Daisy Mae shares her love for fair trade, and volunteers at CFT’s outdoor events!
Shelly has brought a plethora of knowledge and academic accomplishment to the board. She is a graduate of Elmhurst College where she received the Founders Award for Service, the college’s highest honor awarded a student. She has participated as a former grantee representative on a Crossroads Fund grant-making committee, presented at a Center for Nonprofit Success Fundraising Summit, and has provided peer support on fundraising and administrative systems to other worker centers around the country. Shelly is the Director of Operations for Arise Chicago, an organization that builds partnerships between faith communities and workers to fight workplace injustice. She has brought this passion for fair labor practices to Chicago Fair Trade, where she serves on the Board of Directors.
Stephanie Cummings Collins
Dean is a committed social advocate. As a part of the Human Concerns committee at St. Clement Church, he has proved a valuable resource for promoting Christian teachings about the economy and social issues. This committee and parish are active supporters of Chicago Fair Trade and an annual sponsor of the Fair Trade Market. As a long-time friend of the Catholic Worker movement, he has been inspired by his experience in the 1960s and 70s to uphold his commitment to the movement. His favorite CFT event is Globalfest, as he cherishes this opportunity for all the members to come together as a whole family.