Recently, Starbucks has been marketing its coffee as “fair trade”. It is something which they pride themselves on and gleefully inform their consumers of whenever they get the chance to. But what exactly does that mean? And why should we care?
Fair trade coffee is essentially coffee that is certified as having been produced to fair trade standards. This means that organizations which describe themselves as fair trade focus on creating partnerships that are, for the most part, based on transparency and respect. In simpler words, organizations actually treat the coffee bean farmers in a humane manner.
Besides this basic description, what do companies actually do to create and contribute to the concept of fair trade? Well, since the relationship is based on respect, companies pay the farmers livable wages, ensure proper working environments, and prohibits the use of child, or forced labor. Again, one might think that these are basic fundamental characteristics of treating your workers as people and not machines, but apparently not. The inhumanity behind coffee bean farming is actually very prominent.
However, in my humble opinion, I feel that it says a lot when a coffee shop begins to advertise itself as fair trade. When I first heard that Starbucks had become a fair trade company, I could not help but raise an eyebrow. Essentially, I began to wonder how Starbucks was treating its farmers in the first place, and honestly, why make the decision to turn to fair trade after years of not doing so? Well, while I hate to say it, I personally feel that it is a large marketing ploy. I mean look at the words “fair trade”. While they do incite a positive feeling among consumers, it is when we start to look further behind the words that we see the true weight of the words.
I feel that fair trade should not be something that is used as an advertising scheme to make it appear as if a company is doing the right thing. If you are going to treat people humanely, you will do so on your own will, not because it will encourage more customers to visit your franchise.