We believe in ethical business
We believe that it’s still possible to produce a premium gourmet coffee while benefiting the coffee grower as much as the consumer.
Everyone enjoys discovering exotic new flavors of coffee, of course, but what many don’t realize is that coffee is an extremely labor-intensive crop. Coffee farmers work hard, but most of them are at the mercy of price fluctuations or powerful exporters, and barely get by. Recently the world has taken notice of the plight of third world workers and farmers and begun conducting “fair trade” to rectify the situation.
Problems with Fairtrade
The largest fair trade organization, Fairtrade International, has become well-known recently due to its ubiquitous certification stickers. In theory, fair trade means that exporters and importers agree upon a minimum price to pay for the product, benefiting the producers. In exchange, the producers generally agree to follow a set of rules: they use organic farming techniques, eliminate child labor, etc.
In practice, unfortunately, fair trade sometimes doesn’t work as well as it could. Often, farmers spend more money getting the Fairtrade certification than they make when they sell at fair trade prices. Sometimes the fair trade price has not changed in so long that it falls below the market price, causing further losses for the farmer.
In addition, any profits the farmers do make on fair trade sales are often earmarked for local social programs and economic development, meaning that any extra profits don’t actually enter the farmer’s bank account. There have also been quite a few allegations of kickbacks and corruption in complex fair trade agreements. These problems and more, we feel, detract from the spirit of fair trade, which remains a noble idea.
We’re a lot more interested in helping our coffee growers
to help themselves than for us to get a little richer.
A simpler way
That’s why we’ve designed our own, simpler fair trade system, implemented with 100% of our coffee bean producers. We personally check labor conditions, and verify that our coffee beans are up to organic and quality standards. If everything checks out, we will pay well above the current market price. That’s it. We’re a lot more interested in helping our coffee growers to help themselves than to get a little sticker.
A long-term approach
We do still believe that fair trade is a viable form of assistance. A large portion of Malala’s profits (70% in fact,) is earmarked for various good causes, education, and disaster relief. This money is important in that it helps to fix problems, but fair trade is a way to help prevent many of these problems from springing up in the first place. When those in poverty-stricken regions see farming as a viable way to earn money, we believe that they are much less likely to look for money in illegal or immoral activities such as human trafficking, drug running, clear-cutting, or poaching endangered animals. Thus, fair trade may actually cut down on those activities which most harm poor communities, freeing up charity funds for other areas. In addition, when farmers are able to support themselves, rather than living at or below the poverty line, they can better afford health care, education for their children, and even community-building projects, making them less likely to wind up in a refugee camp somewhere. Our goal at Malala is not only to help those in need by sharing our profits with them, but also to prevent them from being in danger in the first place by helping them to help themselves.
We are helping them
to help themselves.