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What is Fair Trade Organic Coffee?

Why Fair Trade Matters

We all want to be treated fairly. However, in much of the developing world, where most of the world’s coffee is grown, fair practice, fair prices, and fair labor standards are simply out of reach to the average worker. Those workers, laboring under unfair conditions for menial pay, don’t have power or a voice without an advocate for change. The fair trade movement is that advocate, speaking up for those powerless to bring about change at the most basic levels of human dignity and fairness. The fair trade movement started in the 1970s as people became more aware of the devastating effects of a growing global economy on local communities. The fair trade movement is empowered by individuals committed to seeing change in the world. Every individual matters because there is power in every purchase we make. Making informed, conscientious purchases can change the way that real people live and thrive, our purchases really do have the power to impact the world.

How Does Fair Trade Work?

Fair trade is a network of global producers, sellers, consumers and organizations all working together to bring about positive change in lives of everyday people around the world. That change looks like fairness in all aspects of a product’s journey, from seed to shelf. Fair trade standards work towards both human betterment and environmental sustainability. International fair trade organizations set high standards in the following areas in order to promote their ideals:

Fair Labor Practices

Workers in fair trade certified farms and businesses labor under safe working conditions, for reasonable hours, and at a living wage. Forced or child labor is strictly prohibited. Workers are treated fairly and paid fairly. Fair trade organizations require documentation and audit business to ensure compliance to these standards.

Environmental Sustainability

Fair trade certified farms use sustainable farming methods, protecting land, wildlife, and ecosystems. Water conservation, waste disposal, and protection against erosion are all monitored and held to high standards.

Direct Trade

Direct trade between importers and producers creates open communication and eliminates upcharges by middlemen. This practice empowers farmers to create ongoing relationships with buyers that benefit them in the long run.

Fair Prices

Fair trade certified coffee must be bought at a fair price. Oftentimes, the world coffee market can be erratic and unreliable in pricing. When supply outweighs demand, farmers often don’t even meet the production costs they’ve incurred. Fair trade standards protect growers from unpredictable pricing swings by keeping a standard pricing for fair trade labeled coffee.

Community Development

Fair trade business practices raise the overall standard of living for entire communities. Fair trade standards build back into communities through providing farms with an additional premium above and beyond the higher price paid for coffee. This premium must be invested back into the local community for programs such as scholarships and healthcare development.

This is just a glimpse into the overall benefits of fair trade practices. Such practices are far reaching and generationally lasting, promoting human dignity and environmental sustainability.

Is Fair Trade Coffee Organic?

Not all fair trade coffee is organic, though roughly half are. There is much overlap in the fair trade certification process and the organic certification process. While the environmental standards of fair trade coffee are rigorous, organic standards go one step further in the process of environmental sustainability, and many fair trade growers take that step. Certified organic coffees are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture. While fair trade coffees must meet the environmental sustainability standards of the fair trade organization that certifies them, organic coffees are held to even higher standards by the USDA. All certified organic coffees are grown, harvested and processed without the use of any man-made chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. Organic farming also uses renewable resources and conserves existing ones. Like fair trade coffee, organic coffees also are sold at a higher set price to protect workers, farms, and businesses. Look for the USDA organic label for certified organic coffees, free of chemicals.

What Does it Take for a Coffee Seller to be Fair Trade Certified?

So far, we’ve focused on the process of fair trade and organic certification for coffee producers. Producers or growers must meet the rigid standards of certification for either label to apply to the products they sell. However, sellers of fair trade items can also be certified, so that consumers can trust that the items they’re buying are actually fair trade. Transparency is the most significant component of fair trade certification for coffee sellers. Fair Trade USA, one fair trade organization, requires quarterly reports of purchases. These reports then are audited and checked with fair trade farms for accountability. A portion of the fair trade sales then goes to Fair Trade USA to cover costs of certification maintenance and auditing.

The Coffee Bean Corral - Fair Trade USA Certified

Our commitment to fairness comes with a cost we’re willing to pay. Coffee Bean Corral is a Fair Trade USA certified seller of fair trade coffees. This means that you can trust every bean we sell as fair trade is exactly what we say it is. We are committed to fair and ethical practices, to preserving the environment, and to providing our customers with a good honest cup of coffee.

Fair Trade - Weighing the Costs

Consumers pay a little more for fair trade coffee. But, what is that extra money buying? Let’s consider the benefits and see if they outweigh the costs.

Benefits of Purchasing Fair Trade Coffee

  • Working against unfair business practices
  • Fighting labor abuses, such as forced labor and child labor
  • Generational impact of family farming
  • Fair prices given to farmers for coffee, even when the global supply is elevated and prices are low
  • Access to loans and help with financing for small farms
  • Community development premiums are given to help raise local education and health standards
  • No exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Direct trade between buyers and farmers, eliminating price gouging by middle-men
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Protecting land, forests, and waterways
  • Protecting fundamental human rights

There is power in every dollar. When those with the power make decisions for change, the world is reformed, unfair power structures topple, everyday people can thrive, and the environment itself is protected. The decision is yours. Is fair trade worth it?

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