Coffee Wars: Battle of the Beans
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST
Enter Email
CONTRIBUTE TODAY
FOLLOW US ON
FEATURED CAMPAIGN

 Watch the Video

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare

The Emory Wheel, Aug 23, 2010
 

As of Fall 2010, a war is set to begin on Emory’scampus, one between the David and the Goliath of the coffee industry.

Café Campesino, a Georgia-based, organic, shade-grown and Fair Trade Federation coffee roaster and retailer, will take on Starbucks in the new bookstore, which was constructed merely 100 yards away from another Starbucks in Emory Village. You might say the fight is between David and Goliath, plus Goliath’s twin brother.

Thus far, dedicated students and faculty members have put forth tremendous effort to make the most sustainable coffee in Georgia readily available on campus. The presence of educational gardens, regional/local food choices in Dobbs University Center and Cox Hall, a weekly farmers’ market and the continuous brewing of Café Campesino in multiple locales all attest to the administration’s dedication to creating a ‘green’ university.

But criticism of the administration also travels between students and over coffee tables. By giving Starbucks a physical presence within the confines of campus, Emory has risked undermining the very message they send to their students and the public.

For a majority of students, fair trade coffee serves as a rallying point for the uninitiated, those unfamiliar with the fair trade movement. Students, so often sleep deprived, drink coffee in mass quantities for most of the year. It is the energy boost at night and the much-needed wakeup in the morning. For the sake of context, coffee also happens to be the most popular commodity traded fairly.

But what exactly is “fair trade coffee?” Traditionally, coffee farmers live in the poorest regions of the poorest countries of the world. An overwhelming majority of coffee communities are plagued by crushing poverty and powerlessness. Because of political strife or racial discrimination, many farmers struggle to survive, unable to voice their problems to a concerned party.

Fair trade is an alternative movement that began about 30 years ago and aims to change the way international trade is executed. Whereas in free trade the social aspect of production is sacrificed in order to keep prices at the minimum, fair trade has prioritized environmental and humanitarian stewardship. The movement relies upon a direct, mutually beneficial partnership between a producer and a consumer that maintains transparency, dialogue and justice.

In the case of coffee, fair trade depends upon the equitable exchange of the highest quality coffee in return for financial security and the benefits of connections to an ethically engaged company. The fair trade premiums actually cover the cost of production for the coffee farmer and enable them to rise out of poverty. Because fair trade empowers community members, it facilitates local development in a way that can truly and substantially improve the quality of life for everyone.

Large corporations like Starbucks, who wield enormous amounts of power in the coffee industry when it comes to price-setting, have great influence over the abysmal conditions of the coffee world, but most opt to enlist the help of members of the communities, aptly called “coyotes,” to ensure that the coffee farmers receive the absolute lowest price for their coffee. It’s capitalism at its best and its worst.

In other cups, Café Campesino has taken the fair trade approach, one grounded in mutual benefits. And while Starbucks certainly does not have the best reputation in the fair trade coffee world for actively advocating fairness and justice, they have committed themselves to becoming responsible buyers through their “Café Practices” regulations.

It is because of pressure from the fair trade coffee pioneer Equal Exchange that Starbucks began purchasing certified fair trade beans, and because of their great size, the volume they purchase (which is only about 5 percent of their entire volume) has made a noticeable impact on the fair trade market.

So while Starbucks may not completely embrace the principles of the fair trade movement, their purchase of fair trade certified beans has undeniably made a prodigious impact on the lives of many, many farmers.

So the stage is set, and as freshmen take their first steps on campus, the battle between two ideals — one ground in capitalism, the other social responsibility — will begin. But this war has an interesting rule: a third party will decide the victor.

Students, professors and administrators — the people of Emory — will choose a side, aware or not. And which side they take will say much about how sustainable Emory truly is.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare

Fair Trade for Farmers and Soil

Plowing field with oxen

Small-scale organic farming and regenerative agricultural practices combat our climate crisis and help feed the world. Here are just a few of the ways that fair trade producers and their brand partners are collaborating to grow ethical supply chains through regenerative organic agricultural methods, and producing goods that we can all feel good about. This […]

The Hidden History Made at Sakuma Brothers Farms

Picking blueberries: Copyright David Bacon

History was made on September 12, 2016 with the election of Familias Unidas por la Justicia to be the union representing berry pickers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington state. Three perspectives on what that means for farmworkers, farmers, and our food system. History was made on September 12, 2016 with the election of Familias […]

Food Waste, Hunger and Climate Change

Food Wastage Footprint and Climate Change, Rome FAQ

As a child, you likely heard some variation of the cliché, “Eat all your food; there are starving people in the world.” While hunger remains one of humanity’s greatest challenges, the underlying causes are not as clear as one might think. Written by Ryan Zinn As a child, you likely heard some variation of the […]

Fair Cannabis?

Trimming

For decades, workers have flocked to Northern California and Southern Oregon to work the fall cannabis harvest. Some are migrants on their seasonal tour. Others are driven by an interest in cannabis culture, or by the promise of lucrative pay. While some “trimmers” have had pleasant, safe and profitable experiences, many have not. Written by […]

Sustainable Public Procurement:

Sustainable Public Procurement

An Understated and Effective Way to Grow Fair Trade Sales of fair trade products have grown in leaps and bounds, especially in Europe. While this growth is encouraging, supply from producers in the Global South is well ahead of demand from consumers in the North. How do we close this gap? Here’s a practical guide […]

Trading Down: How Unfair Trade Hurts Farmers

United States farm incomes sharply declined in 2016 for the third year in a row. Prices for wheat and corn are currently at ten-year lows, and in many cases U.S. farmers are paid below the cost of production for what they produce. While these low prices hurt U.S. farmers, when the crops are exported by […]

Grow Ahead: Crowdfunding Climate Resilience

Fair World Project is launching Grow Ahead, an online crowdfunding platform. For the first time, individual consumers can forge an intimate link with front-line farmer groups, directly funding farmer initiatives and supporting the global effort to address climate change on the farm. Industrial agriculture and food production is a major contributor to climate change, and […]

Fair Cities

cities_minnesota

    What will the just economy of the future look like? We asked for your suggestions for cities across North America that are living examples of fair trade values in action. Is yours on the list? MINNEAPOLIS/ST PAUL, Minnesota Minneapolis-St. Paul is a hotbed of fair trade activity. For decades now, local nonprofits like the […]

It’s Time for Wages With Dignity

timeforwage02

by Ryan Johnson Quietly, hidden behind the headlines that feature presidential candidates bemoaning the state of our country and our economy, voters in several states are no longer waiting on politicians. They’re taking matters into their own hands and launching minimum wage ballot initiatives to create the economic change people sorely need. The impetus for […]

The Business Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

businesscase01

by David Bronner At Dr. Bronner’s, the company I run with my family, we believe that we can only prosper in the long run if we contribute to the prosperity of society as a whole. It’s why we strive to compensate all our staff fairly, cap executive compensation at five times the lowest paid position, […]