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Fairtrade Beans Do Not Mean a Cup of Coffee is Entirely Ethical

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Fair Trade Resource page, and our Starbucks Campaign page.

Walk down your local high street you're likely to be presented with a choice between the big three UK coffee shop chains - Starbucks, Costa or Caffè Nero. Only Starbucks sells Fairtrade coffee. So would this be my about-town cup of ethical choice? Not after I'd researched the ethics of coffee shop chains for Ethical Consumer magazine, rating them across 19 ethical categories from workers' rights to antisocial finance.

I would always reach for a bag of Fairtrade coffee from the shop shelf over anything else. But if the choice on the high street was between a Fairtrade espresso from union-busting, Guantanamo Bay-supplying, trademark colonialists Starbucks - or a Rainforest Alliance espresso from Costa - I know which I'd choose.

And that's not because I'm sold on Rainforest Alliance certification. Both schemes involve minimum social, labour and environmental standards. The key difference is that Fairtrade guarantees a minimum price that tracks slightly above market rates, plus a "Fairtrade premium" that can be invested in projects that enhance social, economic and environmental development. The Rainforest Alliance label only guarantees that 30% of coffee beans in a product have been certified.

Fairtrade is still the gold standard. And our Ethical Consumer Best Buy for coffee shop chains goes to AMT Coffee - the first UK coffee shop to go 100% Fairtrade with its coffee, and offer 100% organic milk.


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