Four Fair Trade Coffee Companies

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In 2013, consumer sales of Fair Trade certified products reached $7.3 billion, with the Fair Trade coffee market growing 8% year-on-year. Companies can receive Fair Trade certification by adhering to standards such as paying higher prices to farmers, providing better working and living conditions for farmers in developing countries, and promoting environmental sustainability and transparency.

Our list of the top 4 coffee companies that are committed to Fair Trade business practices

1. Café Direct

Date Founded: 1991
Founded by: Alliance of Oxfam, Traidcraft, Equal Exchange, and Twin Trading
Country: U.K.

Café Direct is the largest provider of 100% Fair Trade hot drinks such as coffee, tea, hot chocolate in the U.K. As the first coffee brand to receive a Fair Trade certification in the country, the company is considered as a pioneer in ethical business.

Café Direct seeks to integrate sustainability by putting the growers at the center of everything they do, and by implementing environmental and social actions into their business strategy. To improve the working and living conditions of the farmers with whom they trade, Café Direct reinvest a share of their profit to their growers’ businesses. The company says they have reinvested over 50% of their profits into producer organizations to date. In addition, producers hold seats on the company’s board, which allows them to have a say in the decision-making, and some also own shares of the company.

Café Direct’s well-built strategy and concerted efforts to improve the lives and communities of its coffee traders has lead the company to receive the Ethical Business of the Year award in 2009 and the Guardian Sustainable Business social impact award in 2011.

2. Equal Exchange

Date founded: 1986
Founded by: Jonathan Rosenthal, Michael Rozyne and Rink Dickinson
Country: USA

Equal Exchange is a worker-owned co-operative that supplies high quality organic coffees, teas, chocolates, sugar, olive oil from all over the world. It is a recognized pioneer of Fair Trade coffee in the U.S. and the largest certified Fair Trade coffee company in North America.

The company was founded in 1986 with the vision of creating an honest and fair food trade business model that could help build a closer connection between consumers and food producers.

Equal Exchange promotes sustainability for small-scale farmers and their families by buying crops directly from farmers, paying better prices, and offering them credit to grow their businesses. The company also works to reduce its environmental impact by using recyclable packaging and minimizing energy use, while supporting the use of organic and sustainable farming practices by its growers.

The West Bridgewater-based company has also implemented democratic business institutions for its 100 employees, all of whom hold an equal stake in the business regardless of their position, while holding two thirds of the seats on the administration board.

3. Kicking Horse Coffee

Date founded: 1996
Founded by: Elana Rosenfeld and Leo Johnson
Country: Canada

Kicking Horse is Canada’s largest organic Fair Trade coffee brewer and roaster. The company runs a café as well as an online store, while supplying retail coffee to grocery stores throughout Canada and the U.S.

Founded in 1996, the company soon joined Transfair, today known as Fair Trade Canada, in order to support equitable business practices that promote economic stability and better working conditions for farmers. As a part of these efforts, Kicking Horse has committed to purchasing and commercializing only 100% organic and 100% Fair Trade coffee beans.

The company has also put significant effort on reducing its waste footprint by continuously increasing its use of recycled materials and recyclable packaging while implementing gas-emission reduction projects. The Invermere-based company also actively supports farmers who grow organic crops using renewable resources.

4. Dean’s Beans

Date Founded: 1993
Founded by: Dean Cycon
Country: USA

Dean’s Beans is a coffee company that roast and sells organic Fair Trade coffee in addition to a product lineup that includes hot and baking cocoa, sugar, and other goods.

After it was founded by American entrepreneur Dean Cycon in 1993, the company has integrated the notion of trade justice to its business model by fostering economic and social development of the Asian, African and Latin American villages in which their growers operate. Dean’s Beans does this by purchasing merchandise directly from the farmer’s cooperative at or above the international Fair Trade price.

In addition, the company assists farmers produce certified organic products, which are environmentally friendly. Since 2014, Dean’s Beans uses compostable packaging and biodegradable bags that decompose in soil within six months.

The company also supports positive social impact through different programs that they fund and support. In Ethiopia for instance, they launched the Miriam’s Well program that provided funding to build wells and distribution systems in farmers’ communities that had difficulty accessing clean water.

His social activism and promotion of Fair Trade practices has helped founder Dean Cycon receive the Nobel Prize of Business in 2013.