Previous posts about fair trade coffee at the Preserved Stories site are listed here

My most recent post related to fair trade coffee – as brand, and as back story – concerns the ISEAL Alliance:

My interest in fair trade coffee, as brand and back story, has led me to

The wider topic concerns global economic, social, and military history.

Below is a key post about recent research related to fair trade coffee:

Does Fairtrade certification benefit poor farmers? In Ethiopia and Uganda, the answer is No: study

Coffee and poverty

Other ones that I can find include:

Is there a reason to boycott fair trade coffee after reading recent research reports? For me, answer is: No

Buying into Fair Trade (2013) seeks to understand the ways conscientious consumers make sense of the world around them

Many lenses are available for study of fair trade coffee

From trust to compliance: Accountability in the fair trade movement (2013)

The labour behind the (Fair Trade) label (2012)

Truthiness, stage magic, and fair trade coffee

Help Save Wood Thrush: Drink Bird Friendly Coffee

The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee – Summer 2011 Stanford Social Innovation Review

When wealth shapes policy-making, democratic governance suffers and corruption proliferates: Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International

April 4, 2013 Foreign Affairs article

Many perspectives are available regarding fair trade coffee, among them the following April 4, 2013 Foreign Affairs article:

Unfair Trade: The Fair-Trade Movement Does More Harm Than Good.

The latter article is co-authored by Amrita Narlikar and Dan Kim. Amrita Narlikar is the author of a number of studies of interest, including The World Trade Organization: A Very Short Introduction (2005).

An excerpt from the April 4, 2014 Foreign Affairs article reads:

By Amrita Narlikar and Dan Kim

  • Last month, the Fairtrade Foundation staged a march on the British Parliament, a campaign featuring various celebrities and more than 13,000 petitioners, urging UK Prime Minister David Cameron to put issues of ethical consumerism at the center of the upcoming G-8 summit. At first glance, the decision by self-proclaimed ethical consumers to buy fair-trade products seems harmless. What could possibly be wrong if individuals, exercising their right as consumers, choose to promote certain niche markets? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
  • Although the concept of ethical trade has existed for a long time, the institutionalization of the fair-trade movement did not begin in earnest until the late 1980s. In 1989, the World Fair Trade Organization was founded, and in the years that followed, various fair-trade certification and labeling processes emerged. A product is granted a fair-trade label once its producers have met a list of social, economic, and environmental requirements. The stated purpose of the fair-trade movement is to give economic security to producers in developing countries – often of unprocessed commodities such as fruits, live animals, and minerals – by requiring companies and consumers to pay a premium on the market price.
  • Until now, any questioning of the fair-trade movement has been limited to the micro level. The movement has faced repeated criticisms, for example, for the relatively expensive fees that producers must pay to get a fair-trade label, which make it ineffective for many poor farmers. Another area of concern is just how lucrative the process is for middlemen and retailers. Finally, several studies show that very little of the premium that consumers pay actually reaches needy producers. Consumers might be surprised to learn that only one or two percent of the retail price of an expensive cup of “ethical” coffee goes directly to poor farmers.

 [End of excerpt]

July/August 2014 Harvard Business Review article

A July/2014 Harvard Business Review article is entitled:
The Ultimate Marketing Machine

An excerpt refers to the purposeful positioning of top brands including Starbucks:

  • Purposeful positioning. Top brands excel at delivering all three manifestations of brand purpose­ functional benefits, or the job the customer buys the brand to do (think of the pick-me-up Starbucks coffee provides); emotional benefits, or how it satisfies a customer’s emotional needs (drinking coffee is a social occasion); and societal benefits, such as sustainability (when coffee is sourced through fair trade). Consider the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which defines a set of guiding principles for sustainable growth that emphasize improving health, reducing environmental impact, and enhancing livelihoods. The plan lies at the heart of all Unilever’s brand strategies, as well as its employee and operational strategies.

Globe and Mail article regarding sudden death from caffeine powder

A July 19, 2014 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Sudden death of Ohio teen highlights dangers of caffeine powder.”

The opening paragraphs read:

  • A few weeks before their prom king’s death, students at an Ohio high school had attended an assembly on narcotics that warned about the dangers of heroin and prescription painkillers.
  • But it was one of the world’s most widely accepted drugs that killed Logan Stiner — a powdered form of caffeine so potent that as little as a single teaspoon can be fatal.
  • The teen’s sudden death in May has focused attention on the unregulated powder and drawn a warning from federal health authorities urging consumers to avoid it.
  • “I don’t think any of us really knew that this stuff was out there,” said Jay Arbaugh, superintendent of the Keystone Local Schools.
  • The federal Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it’s investigating caffeine powder and will consider taking regulatory action. The agency cautioned parents that young people could be drawn to it.
  • An autopsy found that Stiner had a lethal amount of caffeine in his system when he died May 27 at his home in LaGrange, Ohio, southwest of Cleveland.

 A related topic is ‘ethical investments

A Dec. 8, 2014 CBC The Current article is entitled: “Divestment trend shifts focus to ‘ethical investments.'”


A Feb. 6, 2015 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “The Invasion of the K-Cup and its ‘monster’ environmental problem.”

A Huffington Post article, downloaded July 19, 2015, is entitled: The Myth of the Ethical Shopper. We’re still trying to eliminate sweatshops and child labor by buying right. But that’s not how the world works in 2015.

Also of interest: The Rebel Sell: How the Counterculture Became Consumer Culture (2004).

A Jan. 29, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Coffee cups: 3 months later, are they being recycled at Tim Hortons and Starbucks?”

Papua New Guinea

A valuable resource: From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea (2012).

A blurb reads:

In this vivid ethnography, Paige West tracks coffee as it moves from producers in Papua New Guinea to consumers around the world. She illuminates the social lives of the people who produce coffee, and those who process, distribute, market, and consume it. The Gimi peoples, who grow coffee in Papua New Guinea’s highlands, are eager to expand their business and social relationships with the buyers who come to their highland villages, as well as with the people working in Goroka, where much of Papua New Guinea’s coffee is processed; at the port of Lae, where it is exported; and in Hamburg, Sydney, and London, where it is distributed and consumed. This rich social world is disrupted by neoliberal development strategies, which impose prescriptive regimes of governmentality that are often at odds with Melanesian ways of being in, and relating to, the world. The Gimi are misrepresented in the specialty coffee market, which relies on images of primitivity and poverty to sell coffee. By implying that the “backwardness” of Papua New Guineans impedes economic development, these images obscure the structural relations and global political economy that actually cause poverty in Papua New Guinea.

[End of text]


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