Most consumers are aware of the way organic coffee is grown: without harmful pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. The organic coffee consumer is often willing to pay a premium for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their coffee was grown in a manner that caused a minimum of harm to the environment. Is that cup of java, however, really worth the premium charged?
In for a Penny, In for a Pound
One of the more heart-warming trends to emerge in recent years in the development of supply chains is that of a concern for the farmers and communities that produce many of the world’s foods. Farmers in many parts of the world and, indeed, the communities in which they live, are often faced with rampant poverty. Many companies that develop sources of supply for organic coffee have begun to re-invest in the lives of the people who grow the coffees. It is not unusual to hear of schools, clinics and other infrastructure being funded by the companies that do business with the farmers.
This trend is a natural extension of the values the organic coffee consumer demands of himself and the companies with which he trades. Fair Trade co-operatives were a fantastic starting point in building equity in the supply chain, and while Fair Trade practices have brought some measure of balance to the producer end of the supply chain, consumers of organic coffee have demanded more.
Farmers cannot operate in isolation from the communities surrounding their lands, and it stands to reason that the communities should also benefit from the largesse shown to farmers in fighting for and winning better prices for their organic coffee. The negative effects of poverty are well documented, and any attempts to combat such social ills should be welcomed wherever they are found.
It is a sometimes difficult task to persuade consumers that their purchases do actually have global implications. Dollars spent at the supermarket, on the Internet or at the organic food market do actually make their way to the other end of the supply chain. A purchase of organic coffee is an indirect vote against poverty in the mostly third-world communities that grow the beans. Supply chains thrive on a single fuel called demand. The stronger the demand, the more robust and stable the supply chain, and the better the movement of monies along that chain.
The next time you choose to ante up a few extra pennies for the organic coffee at your local store, keep in mind that doing so drives demand that has far-reaching implications in the lives of farmers and communities around the globe. Nobody lives in isolation in today’s world, and we might well find that by improving the lives of the poorest peoples we actually, in an indirect way, improve life for all people.