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Growth of Sustainable Coffee and Global Poverty Reduction
In both unexpected and unprecedented turn of events, 2012 saw a huge increase in the amount of growth of sustainable coffee imported from developing nations. Sales of the environmentally friendly Rainforest Alliance certified coffee jumped from 3.3 percent global output in 2011 to an astounding 4.5 percent in 2012, and imports of the certified coffee jumped 18 percent in the United States and Canada; effectively shifting the paradigm of business efficacy in regards to the future of sustainably sourced products.

The increase in 2012 sales is thanks in part to the efforts of Rainforest Alliance and Fair-Trade USA, two US-based non-profits that work to both train and certify overseas growers in techniques that encourage sustainable farming practices. These two non-profits have also sought to change public demands for products that promote responsible environmental stewardship abroad. Surprisingly, the growth of sustainable coffee has been bolstered primarily by its sales to US-based fast food companies such as Caribou Coffee Co. and McDonald’s USA, which recently shifted 100 percent of their espresso coffee beans to be sourced from Rainforest Alliance certified coffee growers.

In regards to the huge growth of sustainable coffee, Rainforest Alliance’s press release remarked that “Over 118,000 coffee farms covering almost 800,000 acres (323,500 hectares) are now Rainforest Alliance Certified and meet rigorous standards for best practices and environmental and social sustainability.”

By empowering farmers in developing nations to produce crops using environmentally sustainable methods such as those utilized by Rainforest Alliance certified coffee growers, American consumers can – through their purchasing power – effectively mitigate the systemic global poverty afflicting many South American countries. Furthermore, as the growth of sustainable coffee provides increased economic incentives for many residents of the global south, global poverty levels will continue to contract as certified coffee sales expand.

Brian Turner

Source: Chicago Tribune
Photo: Select Drinks

Fair Trade Chocolate
Chocolate, called “xocoatl” by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, has historically been a staple in life to many millions of people.

Cacao concoctions were drunk by Mayan royalty, lauded as a gift from the gods, and was even used as currency by the Aztecs as early as the 1500s.

Today’s chocolate is also worth a lot of money. Recent estimates of chocolate consumption patterns around the week of Valentine’s Day say that “consumers will buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy, raking in $345 million in sales and accounting for 5.1 percent of total annual sales” in the United States alone, reports Sylvia Camaj of PolicyMic.

The history of chocolate has also always included a dark side, however.

Scholars know that Mayan and Aztec rituals regarded cacao beans as an essential element in some capacity; whether the ritual was religious, concerned life or death, did or did not involve the sacrifice of human life – cacao was seen as a representation of divinity.

Today’s dark side of chocolate stems primarily from the statistic that 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, produced for major companies such as Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Kraft and Dove, comes from plantations in Africa’s Ivory Coast and Ghana, and is responsible for the trafficking of an estimated 109,000 children, says the State Department. The children suffer terrible abuse for their work, beating beaten and forced to work long hours while being exposed to dangerous and stunting pesticides and equipment.

However, smart and dedicated consumers are demanding change from these multi-national companies, and the companies are responding. When Cadbury was bought by Kraft in 2010, Kraft promised “to honor Cadbury’s commitment to Fair Trade cocoa sourcing. Nestle has also committed to buying chocolate that meets international labor rights standards.” Hershey has made similar commitments, although the company still has much work to do regarding their Fair Trade labor practices.

Consumers pressuring companies into morally correct business practices is a healthy, growing global trend that must receive continued attention and support from the international community. A commitment to Fair Trade products helps companies achieve a better moral standing with consumers. They can then be seen as more credible producers.

An example of a global company adopting Fair Trade production is Starbucks, a global giant in coffee that has committed to streamlining several of their beans purely from Fair Trade sources.

Learn more about Fair Trade from Oxfam International.

– Nina Narang

Sources: PolicyMic, Smithsonian
Photo: Urban Earthworm