Monday, January 09, 2006

Why Fair Trade Coffee?

I've been buying Fair Trade labelled coffee (NOT to be confused with free trade) for at least the last three years.

Yes, it's more expensive. Yes, it's not always easy to find. There are lots of excuses why NOT to buy it, but my family is fortunate. We live in a nice neighbourhood in an affluent country. We're well-educated and we make a good living. We are in a position to do what's right.

It's about ethical purchasing.

What is Fair Trade?
Some information and links to help you decide if it's right for you:

From Level Ground

About Fair Trade
Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional international trade which promotes social equity, economic security and sound environmental practices. Its goal is to contribute to sustainable development by improving market access for disadvantaged producers, by raising awareness and campaigning. It works to a set of values and objectives that seek to improve living standards and achieve a fairer distribution of income and influence. It is a partnership between all involved in the trading process -- producers, workers, traders and consumers. (Source: Ten Thousand Villages News (Canada) March/April 1999 pg. 1)

From Fair Trade Labelling Organisations International:

Fair Trade is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalised producers and workers - especially in the South. Fair Trade organisations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.

So how do you find Fair Trade coffee?
First of all, look for fair trade logos. Unfortunately, there isn't only a single logo to look for. Also, unfortunately, there are unethical companies who claim to be fair trade, but really aren't. There's been a movement to standardize labelling in order to assure consumers that what they're buying is really a fair trade product. However, as with all international initiatives, it's a rather long and convoluted process. Hence, there are a lot of different logos out there that may or may not be legitimate.

I'm not interested in turf wars over labelling. If you're not sure, do some research and look up the individual coffee companies. See if they belong to a recognized Fair Trade group. One group is FINE (made up of Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International, International Fair Trade Association, Network of European Worldshops, and European Fair Trade Association).

Some logos to look for:

What you can do as a consumer:
  • Look for it
  • Ask for it
  • Buy it

Don't think you can afford it?
Consider these options:

  • Consume less. Drink fewer cups for the same amount as you're spending on coffee now.
  • Buy fair trade every other purchase.
  • Buy it for a coffee lover as a gift. We seem to accept spending more if it's a gift to someone else.

Links to more information:
Fair Trade
Global Exchange
International Fair Trade Association
Transfair Canada
Article by Orville Chinenbocker
Level Ground


Anonymous said...

Very good information :)
I remember it was really hard to find when I first started looking, but it seems that more stores are offering it now.

Anonymous said...

Good post. Helping each other out, that's what it's all about.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.. I will look into it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this information. I'm glad to learn more about it.