Simply, to encourage a sustainable coffee supply.
Now, let’s dig deeper.
There is a real danger that coffee production will come to a halt, because more often than not producers are paid (at best) – only enough to cover production costs (via Tim Wendelboe). So, they are abandoning coffee in favour of other cash crops.
And well, it makes sense.
So how does Transparency assist?
Well first things first, as Counter Culture Coffee’s 2014 Transparency Report points out – there needs to be clarity surrounding the word ‘transparency.’
“Transparency in how we buy coffee is different from transparency in how we source coffee. Most specialty coffee roasters, ourselves included, are pretty transparent about where their coffee comes from at this point – often listing farmer and co-op information on the bag shelf. Knowing where a coffee comes from is great, but it doesn’t do anything to improve the coffee-supply chain. Long term relationships, built on trust garnered from transparently sharing information, are where meaningful improvement to the supply chain is made”
That statement connects the dots for me – because in no way does stating the origin and farm on a coffee label demonstrate any sort of hardship, development, challenges or rewards the producers are suffering or reaping. Nor does it state how long the roaster has been sourcing coffee from this producer (rather than jumping ship once they suffer hardship – coffee rust/ where they suffer from a poor quality harvest) or whether the “extra” money for specialty – really goes to the empower the people that it “says” it does (farm pickers; farm labourers who are impacted most by commodity coffee prices).
So there are two “transparency” categories
- The story tellers – painting a particular picture
- The “entire story”
Prior to 2014, CCC had originally started with the storyteller category, but as they recognised that “well done is better than well said” – they included more details in their Transparency reports – noting that “some relationships work well and others don’t, but if our impetus is to show how we buy coffee, we need to show the good and the not-so-good. Stepping away from our Direct Trade Certification will allow us to report on more things about more coffees – and represents our commitment to full transparency.”
In moving away from Direct Trade Certification only Transparency reports – they haven’t detailed (as in previous years) the development and progress in the communities they source from. However, as mentioned in the 2014 report – this is so they “can report on more things about more coffees.” (2015 report yet to be released)
So how does transparently sharing information lead to a sustainable coffee supply?
Well, while the sharing of transparent information won’t ‘move mountains’ in any sense, an ethos/attitude of responsibility to share as much information as possible – so that consumers have a more informed point of view; should definitely be noted (if they choose they can better make purchasing decisions on this).
If you have a read of their 2014 Transparency Report – on their website you can look at the price paid FOB “Free on Board”. Which is the price paid after farming, processing, milling, and preparation for export, but before overseas shipping, importation, and overland transport (via Counter Culture).
In sharing this information, they inform consumers about the prices they are paying for their coffee. As the prices outlined are more than the minimum costs of coffee production (see this Fairtrade article about production costs and how certification came about) this price makes coffee producing a viable option for producers, and for producers to know that there are buyers (roasters) who are willing to buy from them in the long term, this encourages them to remain in the industry.
It is encouraging to see that roasters are beginning to share this information in the interests of coffee sustainability. You can also have a read of Tim Wendelboe’s 2015 Transparency report here.
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