Albertsons, Kroger, and Williams-Sonoma Commit to Fair Trade Certified Coffee as Part of Sustainable Coffee Challenge

Fair Trade USA, in collaboration with the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, announced late last week another round of historic commitments made by leading retailers in support of sustainable coffee sourcing and improved farmer livelihoods. Coffee farmers around the world have been struggling with record low C-Market prices for the last year, and the Sustainable Coffee Challenge is one way that the coffee industry is taking action to bring about positive change.

These commitments come as instability in the coffee industry has driven prices down, causing severe financial hardships for farmers and farming communities, as shown by joint research from Cornell University and Fair Trade USA. In this context, farmers are forced to make difficult decisions about whether they can continue farming coffee, and how they can cut costs to survive the current crisis – in some cases foregoing education for themselves and their families or going hungry. The volatile market has millions of producers looking for the price assurances and community development funds provided by the Fair Trade model, making this collaborative initiative among such a range of industry leaders such a meaningful action at this moment.

As part of its commitment to the challenge,  Albertsons Companies has pledged that by mid-2020, 100% of its O Organics private brand coffee will be certified sustainable according to the Fair Trade USA standard or an equivalent.  “We put a lot of effort into helping people live better lives and strengthening the communities where we do business,” said Chad Coester, Albertsons Companies Own Brands Senior Vice President. “By responsibly sourcing our O Organics coffee, Albertsons Companies is again expanding its commitment to improving livelihoods and the environment.”

Kroger has renewed its strong commitment to fair trade as part of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.  “Kroger’s Simple Truth brand is committed to sourcing 100% Fair Trade Certified coffee,” said Lisa Zwack, Head of Sustainability at Kroger. “We are proud to share that we already source 100% of our Simple Truth coffees from abroad in accordance with Fair Trade standards.  We will uphold this commitment as we add new products and new coffee-growing regions—including those in the US – become certified over the next few years.”

Additionally, all of Williams-Sonoma‘s coffee will be Fair Trade Certified by the beginning of 2020.  “Right now is a pivotal moment for brands to make a positive impact through pledging certification of fair trade coffee,” said ­­Danielle Jezienicki, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. “We’re proud to expand our commitment to improving the livelihoods of coffee farmers and the environment through responsible sourcing.”

Albertsons Companies, Kroger, and Williams Sonoma join Target Corporation, Chartwells Higher Ed, UCLA, Bon Appetit Management Company, Atlas Coffee Importers, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC), and a host of other members of the coffee industry in making significant commitments to fair trade as part of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge. Together, these pledges will contribute to the additional sales of millions of pounds of Fair Trade Certified coffee, resulting in significant increases in prices paid and community development funds. Coffee sold on fair trade terms grants farmers increased market access with the opportunity to sell their coffee on more sustainable terms and find an alternative to the volatility of conventional coffee markets. For consumers, it means greater availability of fair trade goods and better communications about the impacts of the model.

“The pricing crisis that coffee farmers are facing is devastating and putting families in dire need of support from the industry,” said Abby Ayers,” Head of Retail Partnerships at Fair Trade USA.  “We are encouraged by the commitments made by these prominent retailers, which will have a significant impact on farming communities around the globe and bring attention to the urgent need for improvement in outdated coffee sourcing practices in order to preserve our beloved morning beverage.”

Fair Trade USA and movement allies will continue to work to increase the impact of the Fair Trade model and invite others interested in scaling sustainable coffee sourcing to continue the momentum by joining with their own commitments in the coming months and years. The organization’s Just One Cup campaign, aims to educate Americans about the differences they can make by choosing to drink just one cup of Fair Trade Certified coffee.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.