RICHARD STILLER interviews RICHARD ANSTEAD, Managing Director of Twin & Twin Trading Ltd., in the second of two SCA News interviews with the 2018 Sustainability Award Winners.
The Business Model category of the SCA Sustainability Award celebrates the hard work of individuals, businesses, and organizations who create and implement sustainable business models. Twin & Twin Trading Ltd., a non-governmental organization (NGO), won the 2018 Sustainability Award in this category for their innovative aid-through-trade model that markets and trades coffees from smallholder farmers in countries across Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
Nominations for the 2019 Sustainability Awards, which will be presented in April 2019 at Re:co Symposium in Boston, are open until December 14, 2018.
Richard Stiller (RS): How would you describe Twin’s work for those unfamiliar with it?
Richard Anstead (RA): Twin is a non-profit organization that owns a trading company (Twin Trading Ltd.) – the two sides of the company work together to enable farming communities to prosper. We combine trade, marketing programs, and advocacy to create better livelihoods for farmers.
RS: What drives Twin as an organization?
RA: Our mission is to connect all the different players in the value chain to create global partnerships between buyers, donors and farmer cooperatives. We want to help influence the market and deliver social, environmental and economic development. Ultimately, we want smallholder farmers to have the power to shape their own business and build their communities.
RS: In developing your model, what was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
RA: Twin aims to bring different people in the value chain together – which is our biggest strength. But this can also be our biggest obstacle. When there are so many people involved in a project, it can slow things down. We want smallholder farmers to have as much autonomy as possible, so we include them in our project plans and include them in decision making. This means sometimes we have people with conflicting opinions. We always work through them and find the best way forward but it can take time.
RS: A business model like this – that incorporates so many different people – must have an enormous learning curve for those involved. What was the biggest lesson you learned when you were putting the model into practice?
RA: Every project teaches us something new and helps us improve the next one. When we work in a new country or region, it’s always important to spend time building networks. It’s the people on the ground that can give us the knowledge to make our projects successful. Additionally, we have learned that other partners in the value chain are key too – banks, buyers, and local governments working together can really create an environment where a project can thrive.
RS: Your focus is not just on coffee producers – you also work with cocoa and nut producers too. What would you say are the main similarities and differences when it comes to trading coffee, cocoa, and nuts?
RA: As Twin always works with smallholder farmers and their organizations, there are many similarities across our work in coffee, cocoa, and nuts. Farmers face common issues: access to markets and finance, low prices, climate change, and others. Twin works hard to support producer organizations to build their capabilities and capacities to trade on the global market on fairer terms. In both coffee and cocoa, we have worked closely with the specialty markets to see how quality improvements can help farmers receive higher prices for their crops.
Although we trade more coffee than cocoa, we are a major shareholder in Divine Chocolate, a leading Fairtrade chocolate brand, and we see growing opportunities for Twin’s work in this commodity.
The route cocoa beans take from origin to consumer includes several processing stages before it becomes chocolate, making the supply chain slightly more complex than coffee’s. We have successfully worked in cocoa supply chains in Ghana, Sierra Leonne, Uganda, and, most recently, Sao Tome.
RS: How did winning SCA’s Sustainability Award 2018 support your organizational mission/goals?
RA: At Twin we are very proud of the work we do to support farming communities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. But to have our hard work recognized by a third party was fantastic – it gave the team in the US, the UK, and Rwanda a massive boost.
Awards like this are a fantastic way to raise our profile. Our work relies on connecting people and organizations around the world. So, this award doesn’t just benefit us, it also benefits every stage of the value chain with which we work. Winning this gives us more gravitas as an organization and helps us demonstrate our value to our partners all over the world. We hope it will encourage more people to work with us.
RS: Twin has an exciting five year plan spanning 2015 to 2020. At this halfway point, how far have you come? What’s left to do?
RA: We’re very pleased with our progress so far. One of our strategic aims is to help farmers understand the coffee market and enable them to make informed decisions when selling their coffee. We have built strong relationships with both buyers and producer organizations to help create what we hope will become long-term partnerships. Our training programs have helped to streamline processes at origin and increase the quality of coffee.
But there’s still more to do. We want to increase the number of buyers we have from key origins. We offer excellent quality coffee from countries like Peru, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania so we would love more buyers to come to us. But we also want to be a trusted voice on coffee. So when we tell people about an excellent coffee from a region that’s less known for its coffee, we want people to trust us and give it a try.
RS: How could the coffee community support your efforts? What is the easiest way for them to get involved with your work?
RA: The best way is to work with us – whether that’s supporting our projects, feeding into our advocacy work, or buying our coffee. We have a coffee expert, Mollie, in the US as well as a passionate team in the UK and Rwanda. You can get in touch with any of the team to find out more.
We try to bring an awareness of issues such as climate change and gender equality – the industry can make coffee fairer and more sustainable. You can learn more by reading our reports and keeping up to date with our latest work from our Twitter feed. And of course, sharing our content with your own network.
Before RICHARD ANSTEAD became the Managing Director of Twin & Twin Trading Ltd., he spent 10 years leading the product management team of the UK Fairtrade Foundation.
RICHARD STILLER is a Chapter Manager on the SCA Membership Field Team.
To find out more about Twin & Twin Trading Ltd., please visit twin.org.uk or follow them on twitter (@twinfairtrade).