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Model, model, on the wall, who is the FAIREST of them all?

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It’s become apparent in the past two decades that there’s more than one way to play fair when it comes to trading commodities.

The FairTrade movement began more as a political gesture against neo-imperialism during the wild and wooly 1960s. Those were the days when the catchphrase ‘Trade not Aid’ was being bellowed loud and proud from rooftops across Europe and spearheaded by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Since then, we’ve seen a number of trade models being rolled out, each with their own take on reality and offering improvements to side-step the commodities market. And while the goal has largely been to offer an effective means of trading on fairer terms with developing nations, the plethora of ways that this can be done can be confusing, to say the least.

And now there’s this bright young upstart Moyee Coffee out of the Netherlands touting their own latest and greatest model, you say. Yeah ok ok, we’ve also had a swing at it, taking coffee as our traded commodity of choice to see if there’s a better way to get it from field to cup without sacrificing any local micro-economies along the way –guilty as charged! But because this has also added to the confusion about which model is in fact most effective, we also feel it’s our duty to help make some sense of it all. That’s why we’ve put together the comparison table in the hyperlink below:

COFFEE TRADING MODELS

The aim here has been to line up some of the heavy hitters from today’s fair trading models to see how they compare when it comes to creating a fairer trading world. For the sake of simplicity, we’ve chosen to focus on coffee as the traded commodity in question, which is why we’ve compared FairChain, Direct Trade, FairTrade, UTZ Certified, Organic, Rainforest Alliance, and of course Big Coffee (a.k.a. Commercial Coffee).

What’s most striking about the models when they’re lined up like this is that comparing them really is like comparing apples and oranges. Each model has it’s own core area of concern and has therefore been designed to cater to a particular identified problem, whether it be social (FairChain, FairTrade), environmental (UTZ Certified, Rainforest Alliance) or product quality (Organic). That much is clear, and anyway it’s ultimately up to the customer to decide which model they value the most when it comes to their subjective interpretation of fairness. But to keep this comparison as objective as possible, we’ve chosen relatively universal elements upon which compare the models, namely: Value to Farmers, Traceabiliy/Transparency, Barriers to Entry, Environmentally Friendly, External Control, and Price-Oriented vs Quality-Oriented.