FAST is an international non-profit association that represents financial institutions and sustainable producers dedicated to sustainable trade. Launched in May 2007, FAST is the pioneer in bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders, working collectively to bridge the financing gap in the sustainable Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) finance sector. Members include socially oriented and alternative lending institutions, SME producers, development institutions and other stakeholders in the agricultural commodities supply chain. FAST is the global reference for data on sustainable SME finance and related markets.
FAST facilitates efficiency, transparency, and stability in financial markets for sustainable SMEs by providing objective data while developing and promoting reporting and quality standards.
FAST aims to promote sustainable economic development by improving efficiency and transparency in financial markets for sustainable SMEs in emerging economies.
FAST grew out of a recognized need to improve the delivery of finance and financial management tools to producers in the sustainable trade sector. The Social Venture Network first put forward the idea in early 2002, with committee member Tomas Fricke presenting an innovative concept: to build a partnership connecting lenders and producers to address the issue.
With funding from USAID, Root Capital (then known as EcoLogic Finance) took the lead of the project, called the Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST). Very quickly, the role of FAST became clear: leverage the partnership between lenders to access loan capital to meet ever-growing demand, develop instruments to help mitigate risk and identify opportunities for streamlining the lending process by sharing best practices.
In parallel with FAST, the International Institute for Sustainable Development reported on strategies for producers to overcome the financial barriers related to adopting sustainable practices. It found that reducing transaction costs, streamlining and sharing information between lenders could significantly improve efficiency of the finance sector. It also identified the need for financial literacy training for producers to mitigate risk through stronger producer business practices. With these results, IISD took the leadership role within FAST.
In 2006, the FAST Steering Committee began work towards a formal launch of the organization, with members from a wide range of stakeholder groups, including representatives from Rabobank, Cordaid, ForesTrade, Root Capital and IISD. In May 2007, FAST celebrated the official launch of operations and has continued to pick up momentum. The dedicated FAST Secretariat office, located in Montreal, Canada, began operations in earnest in early 2008.