Partnering for Sustainability: Business-NGO Alliances in the Coffee Industry

April Linton
Publication Date: 
The movement to promote coffee produced in a sustainable way is one of many efforts aimed at linking social responsibility and market capitalism. In the wake of a worldwide coffee crisis in which prices have fallen to levels that do not support small-scale production or provide living wages for plantation workers, non-profit certifying and labelling organisations are working to develop a market that is sustainable for workers and the environment. They seek to influence cultural and political values in such a way that consumers and corporations in the North will have to respond to them by incorporating the welfare of Southern workers and ecosystems into their purchasing decisions.
This paper discusses and evaluates current strategies to link producers and consumers within this movement, all of which involve a great deal of education. It argues that partnerships between businesses and NGOs are essential for broadening the corporate base of the market for fairly traded coffee and promoting norm change among consumers, and discusses the challenges and opportunities that such partnerships create.