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Bean to Cup - Addressing poverty among coffee farm workers. With a follow-up question.

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Who in the coffee chain, bean to cup, is most capable of responding to the poverty and inequality of pay among ordinary coffee farm workers?

What are your thoughts?

We build homes for coffee workers. You, your Coffee Shop, or coffee related business can sponsor a home for a coffee worker family.

Photo credit: Elias Assaf

Response - In the coffee supply chain, each stakeholder has a role to play in addressing poverty and wage inequality. However, some participants have more direct influence than others. Here are the stakeholders:

  1. Coffee Buyers (Importers & Distributors): Coffee buyers are the immediate link between coffee farmers and the global market. They have the power to negotiate prices directly with farmers or cooperatives. By offering fair prices that reflect the actual costs and labor of coffee production, they can significantly influence farmers' earnings.

  2. Roasters: Coffee roasters, especially those following the direct trade model, also hold significant sway. By purchasing coffee directly from farmers at a higher price, they ensure a more significant proportion of the sale price goes back to the farmers. They also can promote equitable sourcing by prioritizing beans from suppliers who uphold fair labor practices and pay fair wages.

  3. Retailers (Coffee Shops & Supermarkets): These businesses can commit to selling only ethically sourced coffee. By doing so, they can influence consumers' buying decisions and stimulate demand for ethically produced coffee. However, this is often a reflection of consumer demand, making consumers also very powerful in this equation.

  4. Consumers: Consumers hold significant power in their purchasing choices. By choosing ethically sourced coffee and being willing to pay a bit more for it, consumers drive demand for fair trade practices throughout the supply chain.

  5. Certification Organizations: Entities such as Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ can enforce standards for fair wages and better working conditions. These certifications also help inform consumers about ethical practices, making it easier for them to support equitable trade.

  6. Government Bodies & NGOs: These organizations can enforce regulations that support fair trade and fair wage practices, and provide resources or aid to farming communities to combat poverty.

  7. Farmers and Farmer Cooperatives: Organized farmers or cooperatives can negotiate for better prices and working conditions. However, this is challenging due to the often-disadvantaged position of the farmers, necessitating support from other entities in the chain.

Among these, the most direct influence comes from coffee buyers and roasters, who can decide to pay more for the coffee, and consumers, who can decide to pay more for ethically sourced coffee. However, it's a complex issue requiring a coordinated approach from all stakeholders. Consumers demanding ethically sourced coffee, retailers choosing to stock such products, and certification bodies ensuring authenticity can all influence buyers and roasters to pay farmers more, leading to an overall positive change in the sector.

Follow-up Question - What about the big players like Starbucks, Nestle, and others what role can they play in bringing more equity to the pay and poverty issues among coffee farm workers?

Response (chat.openai) - Large companies like Starbucks and Nestlé, because of their size and influence in the coffee industry, have a significant role to play in addressing pay and poverty issues among coffee farm workers. These corporations have the power to help enact meaningful change. Here's how:

  1. Sourcing Practices: Big players can commit to sourcing their coffee from suppliers who pay fair wages to their workers. They can do this by developing direct relationships with coffee farmers or cooperatives, which can also provide them with more control over quality.

  2. Certifications: They can choose to only buy coffee that is certified by organizations such as Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance, or UTZ. These certifications often require that farmers are paid a minimum price for their coffee, among other ethical and environmental standards.

  3. Premium Prices: Large companies can choose to pay premium prices for their coffee, especially for high-quality or specialty coffees. These higher prices can help support better wages for farm workers.

  4. Investments and Partnerships: They can invest in coffee-growing communities directly, providing resources for things like education, infrastructure, and healthcare. They could also partner with governments, NGOs, and other organizations to support development initiatives in these communities.

  5. Transparency: Large companies can commit to greater transparency in their supply chains. This can involve sharing more information about where their coffee comes from and how much they pay for it, which can put pressure on the entire industry to act more ethically.

  6. Consumer Education: These companies can also play a role in educating consumers about the issues facing coffee farm workers and the importance of ethically sourced coffee. This can help drive demand for ethically sourced products.

  7. Advocacy: Given their influence, large corporations can advocate for policy changes that support fair trade and better wages for coffee farm workers. They can use their weight to lobby for changes at a national or international level.

However, it's important to note that while these actions can make a difference, they are not a silver bullet. Addressing the complex issues of poverty and wage inequality in the coffee industry requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including governments, certification bodies, NGOs, and consumers. Additionally, actions by large corporations must go beyond mere token gestures or marketing strategies; they need to involve meaningful, sustained commitments to fair trade practices.

We build homes for coffee workers. You, Your Coffee Shop, or Coffee Related Business can sponsor a home for a coffee worker family.

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