Fairtrade and Beyond

By Kyle Freund

Specialty coffee is a leader in sustainability. From the world’s first fair trade coffee landing on store shelves more than 30 years ago, farmers, traders, roasters, and consumers have pushed the concept of sustainability a long way.

In North America, there are a variety of approaches to Fairtrade—but only products with the Fairtrade Mark meet international Fairtrade Standards.

Coffee sporting the FAIRTRADE Mark ensures that:

  • Farmer organizations receive at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price (currently $1.40 per pound) or the market price (whichever is higher), and the Fairtrade Premium ($0.20 per pound) on top of that.
  • Farmer organizations democratically invest the Premium with 25% earmarked for productivity and quality improvements.
  • Traders and companies engage in fair and sustainable practices, including transparency in contracts, sharing of sourcing plans, and trading with integrity.
  • Farmer organizations and traders comply with the Fairtrade Standards, which cover economic, social and environmental criteria.

Fairtrade Standards are set in a transparent process according to best practices outlined by the ISEAL Alliance. This involves consultation with stakeholders at all levels of the supply chain – including farmers – and regular collecting of sustainable production costs to inform policy (learn more at www.fairtr.de/standards).

In addition to a rigorous certification, Fairtrade conducts regular research into how to improve our impact, occasionally collaborating with other organizations like Utz Certified, Rainforest Alliance, the Global Coffee Platform, Conservation International, and others.

Looking into A Living Income

The majority of world’s coffee is produced by 25 million small-scale coffee farmers. And while the coffee industry aims to be a sustainability leader, the fact is that many farmers continue to struggle to make ends meet and support their families.

To develop a better understanding of how Fairtrade can help farmers move toward a living income, we recently worked with True Price on an assessment of household income in seven producer countries, including Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

This research will be released in June and will inform discussions across the coffee sector on how supply chain actors can partner with farmers to achieve a ‘living income’. As specialty coffee moves forward, there is still space for new and innovative approaches to improve the livelihoods of coffee farmers and their families.

For more information on Fairtrade, visit www.fairtradeamerica.org.

Kyle Freund is the Digital Content Manager at Fairtrade America.

Photo: Nathalie Bertrams