coffeedCoffeed, a New York City based coffee shop chain, is dedicated to supporting various local charities. Their mission is to become one of the most charitable companies in the world. They aim to serve quality coffee and food at affordable prices, and each location donates between 3-10 percent of their gross revenue to charity.

Coffeed’s CEO and founder, Frank “Turtle” Raffaele, was a stock trader on Wall Street before the 2008 stock market crash. After the crash, he decided to pursue a new path and started Coffeed along with three other former traders. The flagship café opened in 2012 in Long Island City. Currently, there are six Coffeed stores in New York City, and, to take the company international, a seventh café is planned for Seoul. Each location is partnered with a different local nonprofit, such as Community Mainstreaming Associates or the Refugee and Immigrant Fund.

One shop is located in Chelsea at the headquarters of the Foundling organization, a nonprofit that provides foster care and adoption services. Coffeed donates to Foundling in exchange for reduced rent in this busy location. They also dedicate a portion of the café to displaying information about Foundling’s work and issues related to poverty and inequality. Furthermore, they employ some of Foundling’s clients, including developmentally disabled adults and teenaged foster children.

Coffeed’s flagship café partners with Brooklyn Grange, a small farm located on their rooftop. They source most of their produce from this farm and support the City Growers organization, which educates the community about sustainability and agriculture.

Raffaele operates Coffeed on a number of important principles. They serve only Fair Trade coffee and try to keep business local by sourcing high quality ingredients from local vendors and supporting local charities. The cafes are meant to be safe, comfortable spaces for customers where they can enjoy food and coffee at reasonable prices. They work to promote sustainability by engaging in environmental practices such as composting. They regularly refine their coffee roasting and prep procedures. Staff members are carefully selected and work to educate consumers about their products. But the guiding principle for this company is putting charity first.

Raffaele hopes to open 15 to 20 locations in the next five years by connecting with fundraisers and investors. One of his main objectives for Coffeed is to prove that business can be both charitable and profitable. The model has been successful so far and could inspire more businesses to follow suit as the chain goes international.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: Coffeed, Huffington Post, Inc., Small Business Trends, The Times Ledger
Photo: Daily Coffee News

The cup of coffee you enjoy every morning could help a small-scale family farmer escape poverty. The lotion you put on your hands could put school supplies into the hands of orphaned children in need of an education.

The Fair Trade Movement does these things and so much more by certifying products made by farmers in developing countries who in turn positively influence their communities.

When companies buy fair-trade products, they pay a premium on top of the base price of the good. This money goes toward community development in the region where the product is grown or produced.

Take for example Green Mountain Coffee, the world’s largest purchaser of fair-trade coffee in the world. Every pound of organically grown coffee purchased by a company such as Green Mountain Coffee costs 50 cents. Of this price, 20 cents goes to community development and the remaining 30 cents is given to the farmers who grow the coffee.

In 2011, fair-trade premiums gave about $22 million to farmers and farm workers. These farmers voted to put the money towards new schools, health care facilities and improved equipment to increase the efficiency and quality of their farming operations.

In order to display the stamp of Fair Trade approval on their products, farmers and businesses must meet a set of high standards. These include workplace safety, freedom from discrimination, fair wage levels, absolutely no child labor, responsible waste management and strict rules against the use of toxic chemicals and GMOs.

Participating in the Fair Trade Movement is as easy as being a conscious shopper.

The black and green fair trade certification stamp is easy to recognize, and with 12,000 products bearing this label at more than 100,000 retail locations across North America, consumers will have no trouble finding fair trade items to satisfy a large portion of items on their shopping lists.

Whether they are looking for sports balls or a fine bottle of wine, there are cooperatives, independent small farmers and farm workers in 70 developing countries across Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean producing the goods they need in an ethical and sustainable manner.

– Grace Flaherty 

Sources: Fair Trade USA, NY Times
Photo: The Guardian

As responsible consumers, fair trade products ensure money goes towards companies that use ethical business practices, green technology and safe working conditions.  The fair trade logo supposedly signals that coffee is produced with certain standards in mind.  In the coffee industry, the fair trade movement seeks to benefit coffee growers in impoverished areas by donating some of the proceeds to community projects.  Fair trade producers work directly with importers and buyers.  By cutting out the middleman, the fair trade program offers growers a higher price for their beans.  Companies that use fair trade products have to pay a licensing fee to companies like Equal Exchange or Fair Trade USA.  Some of these proceeds go back to the plantation community.

However, Fair Trade USA has implemented some changes to the program that have raised eyebrows.  Equal Exchange, the country’s oldest fair trade company, withdrew support for Fair Trade USA in late 2012 after the USA branch cut ties with parent company Fairtrade International.

Fair Trade USA also stated it would give certification to large plantations as well as small, democratically run cooperatives. This creates a problem because large plantations are already turning profits, while many smaller farms are struggling to survive. The fair trade movement sought to support the cooperatives that were often exploited or overlooked by the big coffee companies. Giving larger plantations accreditation and trade rights eliminates the advantage fair trade was providing for the smaller plantations.

Paul Rice, chief executive of Fair Trade USA says the move was meant to promote the fair trade movement by increasing the supply. Large plantations can grow more beans to meet the demand for fair trade coffee. This allows big-chain retailers like Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Whole Foods Market to sell fair trade coffee in their stores.

– Stephanie Lamm

Sources: The Nation, New York Times, Fair Trade USA