It has raised the profile for concerns regarding sustainability and the supply chain in countless households. However, it has also been argued by the likes of Jeff Teter, President of Allegro Coffee, that “[Fairtrade] have done an amazing job convincing a small group of vocal and active consumers… to be suspicious of anybody who isn’t Fairtrade.”
Due to these concerns with the Fairtrade model, many major coffee retailers have now chosen to consider social issues and maintain a sustainable supply chain in their own way. Some adopt other certifications and others have developed their own programs. In many cases, it has been reported that these models have managed to get more money to the farmers directly compared to using the Fairtrade model.
On the flip side, buying coffee from a chain such as Starbucks that promotes its Fairtrade status does not make the company ethical in and of itself. In fact, Starbucks comes bottom of Ethical Consumer’s rating table, citing workers’ rights concerns. Ethical Consumer ranks Muffin Break, Soho Coffee, Greggs, Coffee #1, AMT Coffee and Boston Tea Party as some of the best, with Starbucks, Costa, Caffè Nero, Harris + Hoole, Caffè Ritazza, Coffee Republic, Esquires Coffee House, Pret a Manger, McDonald’s and Puccino’s among the worst. This takes into account:
- Use of certified coffee and tea
- Encouraging the use of reusable cups
- Use of organic milk
- Tax avoidance
- Company size
- Charging extra for dairy-free
While many choose to support Fairtrade, it’s important to consider the entire supply chain, alongside ethics and sustainability.