What is Exactly Fair Trade Coffee?

Why Fair Trade Matters

In much of the developing world most of the world’s coffee is grown at small scale and fair labor practices are almost nonexistent. Laboring under unfair conditions for menial pay, workers don’t have power or a voice without an advocate for change.

The fair trade movement started in the 1970s as awareness of the devastating effects of a global economy on local communities. The fair trade movement advocates for fairer trading practices on behalf of exploited workers in developing countries.

The fair trade movement is empowered by individuals committed to positively impact change in the world. Every individual matters because there is power in every purchase we make. Making informed purchases can change the way people live and thrive.

How Does Fair Trade Work?

Fair trade is a network of producers, sellers, and organizations working together to bring about positive change in lives of everyday people. 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 coffee farmers 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 minimum price. Oftentimes, the world coffee market can be erratic. When supply outweighs demand, growers often don’t even meet the cost of production they’ve incurred. Fair trade standards protect farmers and workers from price swings by keeping a standard market pricing for fair trade coffee.

Community Development

Fair trade business practices raise the overall standard of living for entire communities. Fair trade standards funnel back into communities by providing farms with an additional premium above 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 farther with environmental sustainability practices.

Certified organic coffees are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture. While fair trade certified 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 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. Sellers of fair trade items can also be certified, so consumers can know the items they’re buying are 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 ethical practices, environmental preservation, and 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 made better. The decision is yours. Is fair trade coffee worth it?

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