Admittedly, drinking a good cup of coffee is very much a part of many people’s lives across the globe.  Whether it helps us to wake up, gets us through the day, or relax, there is much more to understanding the complexity behind coffee that can help us to make responsible choices.

Coffee is the world’s second most tradable commodity after oil; nick named liquid gold for a reason, coffee is a multi-billion dollar global industry which continues to grow.  Because coffee is big business, it is important to understand the impacts of this industry.chartoftheday_1667_Coffee_consumption_in_the_US_b

Coffee trees produce best beans when grown at high altitudes in a tropical climate with rich soil.  These conditions are found across the globe located along the equatorial zone, between latitudes 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south.  Quality and taste is greatly influenced by a variety of factors including plant variety, soil chemistry, weather (rainfall and sunshine), altitude, and processing.

Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries around the world, many of these regions may be familiar: North America and the Caribbean (Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico), Central America (Guatemala and Costa Rica), South America (Columbia, Brazil), Africa and Middle East (Ethiopia, Kenaya, Ivory Coast), The Arabian Peninsula (Yemen), and Asia (Indonesia and Vietnam).

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Because the coffee industry is big business and to meet the demands there has been an impact on the environment; many plantations are located in fragile ecosystems in coffee of mono-cultures that are sun grown.  These type of farming practices have the potential to seriously impact the environment.

Thus, it is important to understand what can be done to make responsible decisions when reaching for your cup of joe!  There are two major types of certifications Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance that support sustainability.

Fair Trade International

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fairtrade_logoFair Trade products endure standards established by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization International (FLO). This organization is a not-for-profit association and membership is open to Fair Trade Organizations as well as others that support the Fair Trade program. The International Labor Organization (ILO) is a United National Agency, and was founded in 1919 to promote social justice through labor standards.

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There is also Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, who is a third-party certification entitiy of Fair Trade products in the United States.  Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment and receive community development funds to empower and uplift their communities. Fair Trade USA educates consumers, brings new manufacturers and retailers into the Fair Trade system, and provides farmers with tools, training and resources to thrive as international business people.

An important aspect of Fair Trade that funds is specifically designated for social, economic and environmental development projects.

Click here for more information or to watch brief video about Fair Trade.

Rainforest Alliance Certified™

rainforest-alliance-logo_10851574Rainforest Alliance’s standards are established by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). Rainforest Alliance operates the certification program for SAN standards and is the most influential member in the group.

Today, many products such as coffee, chocolate, tea, fruit, flowers, paper and furniture contain the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal.  So, what does it mean? It means that those products originate on–or contain ingredients sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms or forests which are managed to meet rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria designed to conserve wildlife; safeguard soils and waterways; protect workers, their families and local communities; and increase livelihoods in order to achieve true, long-term sustainability.

For more information about Rainforest Alliance Certified™ click here.

The following makes a brief comparison between Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance.

Standards Comparison Fair Trade Rainforest Alliance
Social Production All farms must form co-operatives and uphold the following ILO conventions:

  • Safety at work
  • Freedom from discrimination
  • Ensuring no child labor and forced labor
  • Minimum age
  • Equal remuneration
  • Freedom of association
  • Collective bargaining
Rainforest Alliance upholds the following ILO conventions:

  • Safety at work
  • Freedom from discrimination
  • Ensuring no child labor and forced labor
  • Minimum age
  • Equal remuneration
  • Freedom of association
  • Collective bargaining
Ecological
  • Reduce agrochemicals
  • Reduce waste
  • Increase compost
  • Promote soil fertility
  • Prevent fires
  • Avoid genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Ecosystem and wildlife conservation
  • Integrated crop management
  • Integrated management of waste
Trade
  • Credit advances/financing
  • Long-term contracts
Market Price Guarantees a minimum market price plus 10-to-20% premium per pound.
The extra premium is paid to co-operatives to either distribute to farmers or use for community development projects.
Price is not guaranteed.
Monitoring Body FLO-Cert (international Social Certification Body)Autonomous non-profit certifier and one private certifier approved by initiative. Certification by member organization.

So, the next time you reach for a cup of coffee, consider choosing Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certified products.  Delaware North’s Corporate Contract with Royal Cup provides both options.