Coffee Industry

The Fight For Fairtrade: How Consumers Continue To Make A Difference To The Coffee Industry 

Sustainable and ethical trade is a growing concern for many people: researchers at Stanford University found that customers are willing to pay 10% more for Fairtrade coffee than a generic product. The increasing demand for high quality coffee and fair treatment of producers has combined to mean that conditions for farmers are constantly improving, and as a result, the quality of the coffee available is rising.

The History Of The Fairtrade Label

The coffee industry is at the heart of the Fairtrade movement, which began in the 1980s as a result of the crash in world coffee prices. Mexico is one of the world’s largest coffee producers, and during this time, the government withdrew the support it had previously given farmers. A rise in cheap coffee from Brazil meant that the money farmers received dropped dramatically, and they had no way of selling their crops. With political instability, conditions worsened, and they were exposed to high levels of exploitation. Fairtrade was introduced to guarantee farmers a minimum price for their beans, allowing them to cover production costs and account for dips in market demand. Since then, the Fairtrade label has improved conditions for growers across the world. 


How Consumers Make a Difference

Younger generations are more aware of sustainability and ethical issues within consumerism than their predecessors. This has forced suppliers to make changes for the better. The publicity of the blood diamond industry and growing concern about those affected by it has resulted in creative alternatives in the jewelry market. The same is true for coffee: when consumers refuse to buy a product with questionable ethics behind it, companies are forced into action, and the market changes. Coffee merchants are able to use the pull of Fairtrade and ethical production in their advertising, drawing customers in and supplying them with high quality coffee from growers who are fairly compensated for their product. Customers actively look for the Fairtrade label when they’re shopping, and this forces suppliers to deliver it.

The push for farmers to receive fair prices for the coffee they grow has had a knock-on effect on quality, as growers are required to use 25% of the Fairtrade Premium to invest in improving quality. As a result, the standard of coffee we see in supermarkets and coffee shops is constantly improving. Consumers really have the power to make a difference, and taking a stance against unfair practice rewards them with a high quality product.