Written by: Naomi Caufield
As we become more aware of our consumer habits and the impact that purchases can have on the environment and other people, labels are often a good starting point to determine what products are sustainable. However, it can be confusing to hear about the variety of labels for products, so today we will be clearing up the difference between Fairtrade and direct trade coffee!
Let’s start with what each label represents. Fairtrade is an international organization that aims to empower farmers across the world by ensuring fair trading conditions. Founded in 1992, Fairtrade International sets rules and regulations to ensure that systems of trade are not exploitative, including child labour practices. Further, the organization aims to support the livelihood of farmers and combat poverty. Broadly, direct trade is a process where the roaster will buy coffee straight from the producer, eliminating all intermediaries and therefore strengthening the relationship between the two parties.
Direct trade was created as a response to concerns regarding Fairtrade International, as it is a very large organization. Fairtrade’s main focus is on the livelihood of farmers, so the concerns were regarding quality control within Fairtrade systems. Although direct trade may work for some roasters and farmers, there is no standardization within the method, so “Direct Trade” means different things depending on where you are. Further, there is no governing body and therefore no accountability for those involved.
The creation of direct trade highlights valid concerns regarding the Fairtrade system; but, ultimately, Fairtrade International has established practices and strict standardization, meaning that you know exactly what you are supporting when you purchase coffee that has been Fairtrade Certified: decent working conditions, improved financial security for farmers, and environmentally sustainable practices. This being said, both are aiming to sustainably create a better future for everyone!