by Alli O'Connell, Marketing & Accounts Manager
World Fair Trade Day highlights the dynamic fair trade system that connects people around the world from farms to factories to retail stores all the way to our homes. Sourcing Fairtrade items is not always easy and requires brands to look hard at their supply chain and choose to make the ethical decision for the people and for the planet.
To celebrate the brands that have made this choice, Fairtrade America’s Marketing & Accounts Manager Alli O’Connell connects with Kicking Horse Coffee (Elana Rosenfeld, CEO) , Divine Chocolate (Callie Yow, Communications Specialist), and FAIR. (Alexandre Koiransky, Founder) on their Fairtrade stories, advice on ethical sourcing, and the shifting market of ethical consumption in the U.S.
We’re excited to celebrate World Fair Trade Day on May 11th alongside brands that are committed to transforming global trade. Tell us a bit about your history with Fairtrade and why you decided to source from Fairtrade certified producers?
Elana: 100% of the coffee we use is certified Fairtrade and Organic. We’re only interested in using coffee that’s good and fair for both our coffee drinkers and for farmers. We believe we can’t have one without the other. We made this commitment more than 10 years ago, at a time when many people told us it couldn’t be done; that we simply wouldn’t be able to source enough beans that adhere to this standard. We stuck to our commitment and have proven that it can be done. That choosing good can also mean great. And we’re proud to be great without compromising.
The benefits of sourcing Fairtrade coffee are many. Above all, the Fairtrade system empowers farmers and their communities. It also provides critical stability to these farmers in an industry that can sometimes be volatile, unpredictable and subject to dramatic price fluctuations. For Kicking Horse Coffee, Fairtrade also helps our farmers to grow with us, to help provide for our growing demand.
Alexandre: We created the FAIR. brand because we believe in a better world, with better work conditions for farmers. Fairtrade standards are a game changer for producers, that is why we embrace them! FAIR. Vodka, our main item, is all about empowering the quinoa farmers.
Callie: Divine Chocolate began when cocoa farmers decided they deserved a fairer price for the sale of their cocoa beans. Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Co-operative in Ghana gained Fairtrade certification in 1995 in order to supply ethically produced cocoa beans to the certified market. This made Kuapa the first Fairtrade smallholder farmers’ organization in West Africa, and we’re proud to work alongside over 85,000 farmers organized across six different cocoa growing regions in Ghana. To this day, all Divine Chocolate products are Fairtrade and we source Fairtrade ingredients whenever possible. Fairtrade is at the core of our mission to empower cocoa farmers to have a voice in the global marketplace and I'm humbled every day knowing I'm working with the producer of a delicious and socially conscious brand.
We love seeing so many new social enterprises entering the market who are concerned about ethical practices. What advice would you give to a start-up brand interested in ethical and sustainable practices?
Elana: Sourcing as much Fairtrade coffee as possible is one of the most impactful business actions a coffee company can take. This decision — this commitment — can mean a bigger financial investment, but it has a positive, lasting impact on the global coffee economy and the people whose livelihoods are rooted in coffee production. My advice to coffee start-ups is to source as much Fairtrade and Organic coffee as you possibly can. Every little bit is important. Also, go on a source trip and see the impacts of Fairtrade coffee on the ground.
Alexandre: The first advice would be to do it because you strongly believe in it. Ethical practices take time, passion, and don't necessarily make as much money as non-ethical ways. Go with your gut!
Callie: When I walk into the office every morning, I am grateful to not have to check my values at the door. Working for a social enterprise means putting others first, being flexible, and challenging yourself to think outside the box. When Divine Chocolate was started by cocoa farmers twenty years ago, there was no roadmap for success when it came to a farmer-owned chocolate company. In fact, it seemed to go against the norm at the time. But through exemplary leadership within the company and dedication to cause, we’re turning a profit and growing brand awareness every day. My advice is to challenge yourself to realize that there is nothing you must give up when building an ethical or sustainable company. I’d suggest clearly communicating and defining objectives with measurable checkpoints and working with your teammates to execute your ideas.
We’re witnessing a shift in the market here in the U.S. where shoppers are increasingly interested in purchasing ethically sourced products, for example we know that fair trade coffee and fair trade chocolate sold 5x faster than conventional coffee last year. How do you see the consumer habits along with brands impacting the planet in the next ten years?
Elana: Consumers are so insightful. The more they learn about ethically sourced products, the more they insist on them. I love this shift. I hope in 10 years that Fairtrade coffee is the industry standard, and that consumers help push conventional coffee sellers to buy more Fairtrade coffee beans. Think of the impact that could have! It’s an exciting possibility.
Alexandre: The vodka market is one third of the spirits market in the U.S. It is a multibillion industry. If people start drinking FAIR. as they do with Tito's, we could basically eradicate poverty in all the Andean region and at the same time ensure a fully sustainable quinoa farming.
Callie: We’re excited to see consumers beginning to ask questions about where their food comes from, who produced it, etc. I think these habits will have a very positive impact on the market for smaller, mission-driven social enterprises and start-up companies. I also think this will incentivize larger corporations to implement sustainable practices in their business models to meet consumer demand.
Divine Chocolate just launched a new line of organic 85% dark chocolate bars because we saw there was an interest in organic and the chocolate category didn’t offer high quality premium chocolate with 85% cocoa and inventive flavors. Reaching the consumer in an authentic and meaningful way is at the core of our marketing strategy, and I’m looking forward to the next ten years as our brand continues to grow and consumers become more receptive to the Fairtrade and farmer-owned message.
This World Fair Trade Day, consider what Fairtrade certification would look like for your business by filling out this form today!