#BeFair: Is McDonald’s coffee more ethical than Starbucks?

Have you heard of the Fair Trade, C.A.F.E. Practices, Utz, or Rainforest Alliance certifications? Leave a comment listing the certs that you’ve heard of and you’ll be entered to win a Fair Trade gift bag.

In Where Am I Eating? I mention a major fast food chain that buys a lot of Fair Trade coffee, but couldn’t reveal what chain. Now I can.

It was McDonald’s! Surprised?

Here’s how the section should read now:

You already support fair trade more than you know. Two separate sources confirmed that McDonald’s buys 30 percent of their coffee certified Fair Trade. That’s 22 percent more than Starbucks. Yet here’s the problem: no one knows this or can talk about it publicly because the company is worried that they’ll get criticized for not sourcing the other 70 percent fair trade. Consumers need to be part of the solution and not the problem.

In 2012, Starbucks claimed to have ethically sourced 95% of their coffee. 92% was certified through their own certification program, C.A.F.E. Practices, and 3% through Fair Trade. I met farmers in Colombia who were counted in Starbucks C.A.F.E. Practices program, yet had never heard of Starbucks or received any type of assistance. Starbucks own C.A.F.E. Practices report on the region of Colombia I visited stated that 53% of farmers in the program reported the program did not benefit them in any way.

So does this make McDonald’s more ethical than Starbucks?

I have no idea.

McDonald’s reports that 25% (note: I heard 30% from two separate sources before pub of EATING) of their coffee is certified by Fair Trade USA, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ. Not all certifications are created equal. Fair Trade is the only one of these three to set a minimum price for farmers and to pay a social premium. I have no idea what percentage is Fair Trade, but it sounds like Rainforest Alliance certifies the majority of their certified coffee.

Companies the size of Starbucks and McDonald’s can make a huge impact in the lives of coffee farmers by sourcing even a small percentage of their coffee ethically. As consumers we should encourage these companies to continue to do so. That said, we all need to educate ourselves about the differences between various certifications.

Have you heard of the Fair Trade, C.A.F.E. Practices, Utz, or Rainforest Alliance certifications? Leave a comment listing the certs that you’ve heard of and you’ll be entered to win a Fair Trade gift bag. 


Becki says:

I heard of the CAFE Practices from you, Kelsey. To me, living in Penna., Utz is a potato chip company. 🙂 The others I’ve heard of. I try to only buy Fair Trade coffee, and have started focusing on organic bananas and fair trade/no slavery chocolate. And I’m left to wonder why Hersheys doesn’t make more than just its Bliss chocolates Rainforest Alliance certified.

Kelsey says:

Heshey’s plans on using 100% certified cocoa by 2020. They will use Fair Trade, UTZ, and rainforest alliance. Again there is a huge difference between the three. I hope they’ll use more FT than the others, but the others are cheaper.

Ricky says:

Hey, that post leaves me feeling fohlosi. Kudos to you!

Thank you for another great article. The place else
could anybody get that type of information in such a perfect method of writing?
I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

Art Trese says:

Fair Trade USA has the most lax, easy to achieve standards of Fair Trade organizations, Large corporate coffee farms can qualify. International Fair Trade Federation is the gold standard, and when Fair Trade USA left the Federation it was so they could water down the requirements and still claim to accomplish the goals of Fair Trade. Want to know more? Check out Dean’s Beans and his blog about a life of working with coffee farmers and communities, starting long, long ago.

Barry Bonham says:

I have heard of Rain Forest Alliance, UTZ and Fair Trade Certifications before this article

Let your voice be heard!

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