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Fair Trade Sports

Certified Green and Fair Trade Sports Balls

Fair Play

Scott James is a father, recreational soccer player, and an advocate for fair trade and the environment. He left a job in technology because he wanted to be able to tell his children that his job helps people. So he combined his interest in sports, social causes, ecology and charity to create Fair Trade Sports. It’s the first U.S. sports equipment maker to launch a line of eco-certified balls that are built by adult workers who are guaranteed healthy working conditions and fair wages. A big part of Scott’s inspiration is his wife Susan (right), a social worker who fights child labor around the world.

Fair Trade Sports started small, but it has big goals. Scott wants to change the sports ball industry, which is notorious for exploiting child labor and engaging in environmentally irresponsible practices. He uses rubber from certified forests in Sri Lanka and South India to make his soccer balls, basketballs and footballs, and he only works with fair-trade certified factories. No animal byproducts are used (the balls are vegan). All the products conform to international ball standards, and they’re packaged deflated so they cost less to ship.

Fair Trade Sports is modeled after Newman’s Own, the charitable food company co-founded by Paul Newman. Scott expects his company to be profitable by the end of this year, and he has pledged to donate all after-tax profits to children’s charities including Room to Read and the Boys & Girls Club. We heard about Fair Trade Sports from Janet Morgenstern Passani, who’s passionate about helping brands that support healthy, natural living. These fun, responsibly-made balls play right to those strengths. Game on.

— Cara
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Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Scott
    Scott

    I'm Scott James from the crew at Fair Trade Sports. We are proud to bring you the world's first line of sports balls for soccer, football, basketball (and more!) that are both Eco-Certified and Fair Trade Certified. And like the Newman's Own brand you are familiar with, we designate all our after-tax profits for charity. Until we hit profitability (this quarter, we hope!) we've been donating $1,000 annually to our children's charities.

    I escaped the ample marketing budgets and cushy benefits packages of high tech corporations to start Fair Trade Sports and teach graduate students about marketing and sustainability. BusinessWeek recognized our work last year as one of "America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs" and Forbes Magazine has us profiled in this month's issue as a leading eco-entrepreneur.

    Our products have been featured in O Magazine, Parents Magazine, Outside Magazine, the Washington Post (and lots more)…and I'm happy to add Daily Grommet to that list! Please let me know what questions you have!

  • Kate
    Kate
    4/16/10 12:15 PM

    I didn't know that the sports ball industry was notoriously bad about labor practices. It makes me so sad to think about children having such a difficult life. I applaud you for making this commitment and making a difference! How do these compare in price to similar sports balls?

  • Scott
    Scott – Special Guest
    4/16/10 12:27 PM

    Hi Kate, thanks for the encouraging words!

    We set our pricing in an incredibly un-scientific manner. We bought several dozen of the competitors' sports balls, matched them with our sports balls in terms of quality, and then took the average of their prices. That was it!

    Given that our brand is new, we wanted folks to make an apples-to-apples comparison in terms of quality, and then let their decision be swayed by the Eco + Fair Trade certifications.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    4/16/10 12:41 PM

    Scott, you are a speaker and teacher of sustainability and marketing sustainability. What's the biggest message that you would hope that each person you teach and who hears you speak walks away with?

  • Scott
    Scott – Special Guest
    4/16/10 12:47 PM

    Hi Katherine, the #1 takeaway would be that we each can (and must) move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. No matter who we are or where we live, we must encourage ourselves (and others) to become for sustainable...for the good of our planet and people.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    4/16/10 12:59 PM

    I really love knowing that something I purchase makes a difference. It definitely influences picking one choice over another. I don't want children to have to work for the products I purchase, I love how you ensure that their parents are paid a living wage so children don't have to do the work. That's very meaningful.

    I saw this over at the Fair Trade Sports site and thought that I would embed it here for anyone who would like to hear more about Fair Trade Sports from Scott.

  • DJP
    DJP
    4/16/10 12:59 PM

    Scott, I only buy Fair Trade coffee, and I never knew until today that there is a problem with athletic balls. So, from now on, when we need to buy a ball, we'll return to Daily Grommet and buy them here. Thank you.

  • Scott
    Scott – Special Guest
    4/16/10 1:05 PM

    Thanks,DJP...we appreciate your (future) business! I too am a fan of Fair Trade Certified coffee. My local favorite is Grounds For Change. Their origin blend Sumatran rocks.

  • Barbara
    Barbara
    4/16/10 1:11 PM

    This is just the kind of product that Jules Pieri and the Daily Grommet community WOULD support, given their interest in social justice and community values. So glad to learn that investors agree and that Daily Grommet will be around to continue, grow and be a voice to bring us more new, interesting products like this!

  • Scott
    Scott – Special Guest
    4/16/10 1:17 PM

    Yes, Barbara, the recent investment in Daily Grommet is exciting! Efforts like DG and others that stem out of groups like B-Corporation, Woody Tasch's "slow money" and Jacqueline Novogratz's "patient capitalism" are heartening to see. This is *great* change we are seeing.

  • Jules
    Jules – Grommet Team
    4/16/10 1:48 PM

    Barbara, Thanks for the kind words. Yes, we knew immediately that Janet Morgenstern Passani was bringing us a Grommet when she told us about Scott and his lovely company. Make no mistake, Scott's ambitions around sustainable enterprises and economies are increasingly mainstream. Just talk to anyone under 30 and they will probably echo his thoughts.

  • Jan
    Jan
    6/21/10 9:34 PM

    Scott, I would like to bring more awarness to folks regarding your fair trade vegan sport balls. please contact me at the email I provided.

    Jan

    Albany Vegetarian Network, Inc.

    Thank you

  • Julie
    Julie – Grommet Team
    6/21/10 11:27 PM

    @Jan Thanks for your interest in pursuing this further! We will forward your request on to Scott.

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