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53. This is what transparency looks like

2010-06-03 Comments Off on 53. This is what transparency looks like

Counter Culture Coffee made a stir recently when it released its Direct Trade Certified Transparency Report — a worthy accomplishment that broke new ground among Direct Trade roasters.  I thought the inclusion of brief narratives about each of the relationships was a particularly important innovation, especially because the company was candid about some of the challenges it faced this harvest in its Direct Trade relationships.  The only thing I have seen that compares to this level of transparency is  Fair Trade Proof — a radical approach to transparency developed by Fair Trade pioneer Cooperative Coffees.

At Fair Trade Proof, Cooperative Coffees publishes its entire importing paper trail and explains each of the documents for folks not used to talking FOB prices or thumbing through Bills of Lading.  Every contract from every purchase Cooperative Coffees has made over the past several harvests is there for anyone to review.

One Cooperative Coffees member in particular — the Just Coffee Cooperative of Madison, WI — has pushed the envelope on transparency even further.  While most coffee activists and certifiers focus primarily on origin, ensuring farmers get their fair share of your coffee dollar, Just Coffee takes transparency to the market end of the chain.  As part of its transparency project, Just Coffee publishes its annual profit-and-loss statements and a breakdown of its own operating costs, which appears both on its website and the side of its pre-printed bags.  Pretty radical.

Matt Earley, one of Just Coffee’s founding members, contributed this guest post on transparency to the CRS Fair Trade blog earlier this week.