Activism: Our Trade Justice Approach
What's in a name? These days, words like Fair Trade, Sustainably Sourced, or Farmer Friendly can be found on almost every bag of coffee out there. Could it really be true that all coffee is now sourced with respect to farmers and the environment? Have we come this far in creating trade justice?
As you might guess, unfortunately the answer is no. What’s happened is that large corporations and small companies alike have discovered that there is money to be made by claiming sustainability, Fair Trade etc., and that there aren’t any hard and fast regulations to make them actually practice what they advertise. Some companies may be well intentioned, but instead of doing actual research or getting to know their farmers, they jump onto the Fair Trade bandwagon and hang on tight, assuming that that is ‘good enough’. Other companies, especially the big boys, aren’t committed to fairness at all, just profits, and jump on the bandwagon because their market researchers tell them it’s time.
If you aren’t a fan of corporations that tell you they do something, but don’t, or do only part of the time, than you’ve come to the right place. Here at Dean’s Beans we practice what we preach, and aren’t shy about sharing it with you.
What Fair Trade Means to Us
So what’s our philosophy at Dean’s Beans? Over the years we’ve participated in different labeling initiatives, like the well-known “Fair Trade Certified” label. Although we used to support it, we’ve always maintained that the Fair Trade labeling system is just one ‘tool in the toolbox’ for creating trade justice. But now that the marketplace has become more saturated with Fair Trade claims and corporate players meddle with the rules, we feel stronger than ever that we need to just keep doing what we are doing instead of putting stake in 3rd party labels. We have also worked closely with farm cooperatives to develop the Small Producer Symbol, the first farmer owned and operated fair trade label.
Our approach to Fair Trade is to:
Purchase 100% certified organic coffee from FLO registered Cooperatives
- Purchase directly from the coops, not through middlemen
- Purchase at or above the international Fair Trade price
- Offer Direct Development co-designing and funding to each coop
- Pre-finance bean purchases whenever financially feasible
- Commit to an independent, 3rd party, public audit of our Fair Trade practices
Just as we build long-term relationships with farmers, we want to do the same with you. That way you can see that, for us, Fair Trade isn’t just a passing fad, but rather the foundation of our company, and the reason we come into work every day. For more information about the current Fair Trade debates, check out our zine articles.
Advocacy on Important Issues
We are also actively involved in a host of issues important to us, to you, to the farmers and to the earth. We are big in the GMO Labeling movement in Massachusetts and nationally, as well as in advocating for paid sick leave, raising minimum wages, keeping integrity in national organic standards and other important social advances. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with our work. Chime in!
Outreach and Education
One of the central tenants of our Trade Justice Philosophy is transparency. At Dean's Beans we know that folks will make the right choices if they know what they are choosing. The problem is, most companies don't like to share where their products come from and don't offer accurate information about their trade practices. We think that the more people know, the better. That's why we dedicate a lot of time and energy doing outreach and education in our community. We love speaking at schools, universities, summer camps, to church groups and other clubs and organizations about our views on trade justice.
Here is a list of some of the places and events we've spoken at recently:
- Yale Global Health Conference; New Haven, CT
- United Nations Equality Means Business summit; New York City, NY
- Bioneers by the Bay; New Bedford, MA
- Mediterranean School of Business; Tunisia
- Notre Dame University; South Bend, IN
- Boston College; Weston, MA
- UMass Amherst; Amherst, MA
- Williams College; Williamstown, MA
- Amherst College; Amherst, MA
- Northfield Mount Herman School; Gill, MA
- The Winchendon School; Winchendon, MA
- Providence College; Providence, RI
...to name a few!
If you would like us to come and speak where ever you are, send us an email with your ideas.
Internships at Home and Abroad
We have a very robust internship program at Dean’s Beans. College students from around the country have done great work (and gotten credits!) for an amazing variety of important programs with our farmer coops in Latin America (the closest, but if you want to work in Indonesia…)
Some ideas for international internships are:
- Social Impact Monitor: Survey farmer families about the impacts of Fair Trade, Organics, cooperativism, or other themes and write a research report about your findings.
- Cooperative Intern: Are you a graphic designer? Web guru? Business maven?
- Cooperatives can use help in many areas; we can help match you with the right one.
- Health Promoter: You could provide health education and training to farmer communities, or perform needs assessments.
- Eco-Management: Help farmers test their soils, work with agronomists in the fields, or geo-reference farm plots, to name a few options.
** Please consider your language skills and the challenges of working in a foreign environment.
There are many internship opportunities at home as well. Here are some project ideas:
- Marketing: Graphic design and layout, event planning and promotion (coffee music festival?), events focusing on a specific coffee-producing country (e.g. Indonesian Coffee and Culture Day)
- Office Management: assist in the offices of Dean’s Beans, study and make suggestions about workflow and efficiency
- Web design: Help us design a mobile app!
- Education students: Help us develop a curriculum about ethical consumerism and Fair Trade then take the curriculum on tour to local schools and guest-teach.
- Soccer and Fair Trade: Develop a curriculum about Fair Trade to teach to soccer teams in local schools. We have Fair Trade soccer balls to provide to the teams.
- Social Media: Help us develop and implement a social media strategy that is in line with our progressive values.
- Environmental Science: Update our carbon usage analysis!
- Research: Produce a report on migratory bird species from the coffeelands or on the impacts of Climate Change in the coffee lands and industry and farmer responses.
Okay, all fired up? Just drop us a line at email@example.com.
Javatrekkers Corps (for us Oldies but Goodies!)
If you are out of college and want to share your skill base with some of our farm cooperatives, this is the program for you! We match the needs of farming communities with the skills that you have to offer. Recent assignments have included creating an on-going English teaching curriculum, and an organic farmers exchange in Peru. They may also include the types of assignments listed above for international interns. These assignments may be for a week or three months, it is up to you and the coops. Email us for details at firstname.lastname@example.org.