Fairtrade International has announced the appointment of Harriet Lamb as the new chief executive of Fairtrade International, who will take up her new role by 1 October 2012. She brings an unrivalled track record in driving Fairtrade success after more than 10 years as executive director of the UK Fairtrade Foundation and is known for her passion for the movement and her commitment to social justice.

It is a homecoming of sorts for the long-standing Fair Trader who began her Fairtrade career as Banana Coordinator at Fairtrade International before joining the Foundation in 2001 as director briefly, before becoming executive director.

“Harriet has a wealth of experience of the movement, combining an extraordinary memory of the past with a clear vision for the future,” says Marike de Peña, vice chair of Fairtrade International’s Board, and manager of BANELINO, a small farmer banana cooperative in the Dominican Republic.

Ms Lamb is the author of Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles, published in 2008, and has won numerous awards for her contributions to sustainable development and business. During her time at the Fairtrade Foundation, she oversaw a growth in sales from 37 million euros in 2001 to nearly 1.5 billion euros in 2011.

Her work has taken her around the globe to spend time with farmers and workers and understand the challenges and impacts of Fairtrade. Ms Lamb’s commitment to working for social justice is rooted in her childhood experience of India and she returned to work in India with farmers in rural villages and landless labourer cooperatives. She campaigned for better wages with the Low Pay Unit in the North East of England, and for an EU arms treaty and the untying of UK aid with the World Development Movement.

The appointment of Ms Lamb comes at an exciting time for Fairtrade International, with an increasing focus on small holders and workers, and supply chain sustainability rising up to government and business agendas. Fairtrade’s approach to certification is unique in focusing not just on improving social, environmental and economic outcomes at farm level, but also offering concrete mechanisms to improve returns to producers through minimum price and premium payments, as well as promoting long term trading relationships.

“There aren’t many people who come more qualified or who personify Fairtrade better than Harriet Lamb,” said Molly Harriss Olson, Board chair at Fairtrade International.

“Fairtrade has already come on a breath-taking journey,” Ms Lamb said. “We’ve established a proven model for doing business differently, which is already bringing tangible, positive impacts for millions of people in farmers’ organizations and their wider communities. But I’m in no doubt of the immense challenges that still remain.

“There are hundreds of millions of small farmers and workers not able to earn a decent livelihood, to gain fair market access for their goods, or to adapt to the growing threat of climate change. My top priority will be to strengthen Fairtrade’s support for farmers and workers on the ground. I’m excited by the opportunity for our unique producer-partnership model to transform trade and business relationships in the future, and look forward now to working globally across the Fairtrade movement to realise our vision and our potential.”

One of the challenges ahead for Fairtrade International (FLO) is in the U.S., where a large range of products bearing the International Fairtrade Mark are launching onto the U.S. market, following the stoush there between FLO, who is supported by leading U.S. Fairtrade advocates and suppliers, and Fair Trade USA.