Coffee lovers will likely know the differences between a mocha, a latte and a cappuccino, but not all of them will necessarily know what all the labels and designations on their coffee mean. For instance they might not know what fair trade means – we see it everywhere from plants to our beloved coffee, but what does it actually represent?
Well essentially ‘fair trade’ means that the coffee has been made in such a way as to help producers in developing countries by providing them with – well you guessed it – ‘fair trade’ and to promote sustainability.
In the past certain imports such as the coffee bean, as well as cocoa, sugar, tea, honey, bananas etc, could be obtained incredibly cheaply due to the financial disadvantage of those countries which produced it. In other words, whereas $1 may be small change to us, to them it cold be a day’s wages and so that’s the kind of pay that we could ‘get away with’ over there.
This of course is highly unfair and it’s sad and ironic that the people who need that extra money most are the same people who are receiving the least. This is where fair trade steps in. With fair trade you pay a slightly higher price for your produce, but this means that more of that profit can go back to the third world countries – both as cash in hand and in order to promote sustainability and generally help them to continue trading.
Fair trade has thus become a stamp of approval, which allows discriminating customers to seek out those products that they know are not exploiting the poorer countries. This is then a win-win-win situation. The consumer wins because for only a fraction more they get the same coffee but also get to feel good about themselves, the shop owner wins because even though they may be potentially losing a little profit on each coffee sold, they are nevertheless gaining by shifting enough units, and the traders in the third world countries of course win as well because they are selling their product for more and getting to look after their businesses.
What this means is that as a buyer it is highly important to look for that fair trade logo when buying products. At the same time it means that if you make coffee or trade in coffee you should seek to earn Fair Trade accreditation. This will help you to sell more than your competition that isn’t looking after the best interests of those who need it, but further it will help you to improve your reputation beyond that. Even people who aren’t your customers will be aware of your policies and the efforts you are making to promote fair trade and this will boost your reputation.
Finally, fair trade will help you run a good business that is doing good for the planet instead of doing damage. As well as looking after those hard working traders who need the money to provide their families, you will also be helping to keep supplies more sustainable thus ensuring that there is still a coffee business in a hundred years’ time.