A Niche for Sustainability: Fair Labor and Environmentally Sound Practices in the Specialty Coffee Industry
Facing a worldwide coffee crisis in which prices fell to levels that do not support small-scale production or living wages for coffee workers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and specialty coffee companies have attempted to promote transparent and sustainable exchanges between producers and buyers.
The NGO-based initiatives are diverse; they may focus on improving the lot of small farmers via Fair Trade, emphasize environmental protection, provide technical and/or business assistance to producers, or offer differentiating certifications based how producers score on a long list of social and environmental indicators. Specialty coffee roasters have introduced their own comprehensive sustainability projects. This is a critical review of many sustainability projects and their outcomes to date, including two examples of smallholder farmer-NGO collaborations that have yielded positive results.