In 2005, Organically Grown Company hosted a Sustainability Summit with growers, retailers, distributors and suppliers from the organic produce trade. The group set forth a challenge “What would our trade look like if we were sustainable?” and “Are we ready to take on this challenge?” Following the Summit the businesses approached the Board of Resource Innovations, a program at the University of Oregon, about providing staff support to their network, in order to share best practices and work toward solutions for shared challenges. The group drafted the “Declaration of Sustainability in the Organic Food Trade” for use by the organic food trade as a framework for accomplishing the group’s goals. Over a period of three years (2005 through 2008) the 11-point action pledge was vetted with hundreds of organic growers, distributors, processors, retailers, certifiers and industry NGOs at numerous conferences across the country.
In July 2008, a group of 18 organic food companies formed the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association. The mission of the association was to build the capacity in “early adopter” businesses in the food supply chain, helping them transition toward innovative, environmentally and socially sustainable business models.
In February 2012, after four years of growth and industry recognition for its leadership in sustainability for the organic food trade, the association changed its name to the Sustainable Food Trade Association. The strategic decision to change the associations name was based on a desire to simplify the brand, which contributes to the growth of the organization. The mission of the organization is unchanged and remains committed to building the capacity of the organic food trade to transition to sustainable business models.