For many people, coffee is a mandatory start to their day. For others, coffee is simply a fun way to experiment with different flavours from around the world. Whatever your reason for drinking coffee, there’s no doubt that it’s a massive industry and its sustainability is something that is rarely questioned, but still important.
“Fair trade” is a term that is used to describe ethical and sustainable coffee, but what exactly does the term mean? How unsustainable is the coffee industry, anyway?
Is coffee sustainable?
Firstly, the coffee industry is one that is highly vulnerable to deforestation. Coffee is grown in tropical ecosystems, which are home to some of the biggest stores of forests and biodiversity in the world. Each year, the demand for coffee is growing by 2% and by 2050, global production of coffee will need to triple to meet this demand.
This could require an additional 30 million hectares of land, destroying trees that we need to absorb carbon dioxide and killing wildlife! This makes it so important to enhance production on and rehabilitate existing coffee farms so that more of the environment doesn’t have to suffer to satisfy our caffeine cravings.
Secondly, coffee farmers and farm workers are often not paid well, or even enough to satisfy their needs. In 2020, the global coffee market was valued at US$102.2 billion, however producing countries receive less than 10% of this and farmers make even less. This is why the Fair Trade certification was created – to ensure that coffee farmers receive a fair price for their product, and that they and their workers can have a decent standard of living.
What is Fair Trade Coffee?
When a coffee has been Fair Trade-certified, it means that it has been audited throughout its supply chain to meet certain sustainability and labour standards. The Fair Trade movement brings awareness to the fact that coffee farming is a risky business from which farmers often struggle to make money.
A Fair Trade certification is one way to ensure that every farmer is paid a price that is above base commodity price, helping them earn a sustainable living. Since more than 120 million people around the world rely on coffee for their livelihoods, making sure that they are being paid fairly is important.
There are quite a lot of organisations that certify coffee as Fair Trade, like Fairtrade America and the World Fair Trade Organization. While the certification has its problems – there can be a lack of transparency about who is actually getting the money, for example – it is nonetheless an important step in making sure that people who work hard to satisfy our needs are able to look after themselves and their families.
We can all make an extra effort to make our coffee habit more sustainable – take a bit of time to research the coffee houses that use Fair Trade beans or buy Fair Trade-certified beans or instant coffee to make at home. It’s a simple switch that will help those who bring our coffee achieve a better standard of living for themselves and their families.
In celebration of International Coffee Day on September 29, follow us on Instagram (@8shadesofficial) to learn more sustainable coffee tips!
Sign up for the 8Shades weekly newsletter to get all our top stories in your inbox!
See also: The Truth About… Honey