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When it comes to ethical coffee, there is no one size fits all answer. There are plenty of avenues to go down which can impact on whether your coffee is ethical, such as sourcing your coffee from sustainable farms, gaining certficates such as Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade, or sourcing the coffee directly from the farmers and producers themselves.

According to a recent survey from EM Consumer Research, 36% of UK consumers are often or always choosing brands with good sustainability credentials, which suggests the importance of certifications such as Fairtrade. As sustainability becomes an increasingly significant factor for brands across the globe, these numbers are only increasing, which implies the importance of developing and working with ethical brands.

Here’s a rundown of Fairtrade and direct trade…

Fairtrade Coffee

With the Fairtrade certificate now becoming a well-known mark on products, many consumers value the impact that Fairtrade has. Julie Nicoara, Interim Director of Public Engagement at the Fairtrade Foundation noted that “consumers associate Fairtrade with fair prices living income, good conditions, and support for farmers in developing countries. Where they can, shoppers will reward companies that do the right thing through their purchasing choices”. Fairtrade was established in 1992, and is now a globally recognised certificate which helps organisations meet a set of standards that benefit farmers, including a mixture of social, economic and environmental conditions, all allowing for democratic decision making, fair living wages, and environmentally sound agricultural practices, for example. These standards are a great way to help farmers and the communities, they’re only a small step in making crucial benefits for everyone involved.

Direct Trade Coffee

Sourcing speciality coffee can involve a process called direct trade, which is defined as having a one-to-one relationship between the roaster and farmer or producer themselves. Direct trade helps the farms, farmers and the coffee-growing communities by being able to determine what the farm and farmers really need to help benefit their lives, which coffee roasters can support through initiatives. Since coffee has to go through a rigid process for it to be graded speciality, coffee roasters are usually much more involved with the farmers and producers of their coffee beans to make sure everyone will benefit from their high quality, speciality coffee. To help maintain the high quality of the beans, coffee roasters who work with farmers through a direct trade will make sure that the farmers receive a fare living wage that’s usually above the Fairtrade minimum, and will also support farmers in using ethical farming methods, best practices and to oppose child labour.

Each does come with its own distinct differences, Fairtrade is without question more widely recognised by consumers, in fact Fairtrade themselves note that 84% of consumers trust the Fairtrade mark. The same cannot be said for direct trade currently which puts the reliance on roasters educating customers to ensure they understand the positive impact it has on farmers and their environments. Equally each do play a part in the quality of the coffee and it’s subsequent grading. Grading can often see Fairtrade coffee miss the mark for speciality status unlike direct trade.

Whether you choose Fairtrade of direct trade you can be sure of one thing and that is that both help support ethical sourcing and trading when it comes to coffee.

If you want to find out more about our Fairtrade and direct trade ranges, please contact one of our team at or call on 0800 092 8992, or you can request a sample here.

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