Ethical Conduct in the Global Coffee Market
5th July 2022
The coffee industry has a long and troubled past, a past that lives on in the form of many issues that endure to this day. It is an industry with ingrained colonial roots, with coffee initially going global through the Dutch empire in 1658, and then being controlled by the East India Company. Coffee has come a long way, but deep inequity still prevails. The power in the global coffee market remains skewed in favour of Western exporters and mills.
At London Grade Coffee, we strive to do business a different way. We choose to bypass the traditional model of coffee buying, instead working directly with the Nandanvan Estate in Southern India, who supply us with the most delicious coffee beans. By going direct we are able to pay not only a fair price, but work closely with the Estate to effectively meet their needs. We thereby work collaboratively with the Estate, in a reciprocal relationship which allows both parties to grow together. This collaborative approach forms the backbone of our mission in coffee, and solidifies the first tenet of our business model:
1. Ethical Sourcing
This approach has the parallel benefit of ensuring that our environmental ethos is upheld at every level of the production process. Growing coffee in a way that maintains a degree of symbiosis between the grower and the environment is difficult and costly compared to a more traditional approach. The Nandanvan Estate is unfenced, and as such exists as part of the local ecosystem. Elephant, Indian Bison, and Black Squirrels roam freely across the estate.
This creates a host of challenges for coffee production, with elephants frequently eating the roofs of the drying huts. However, it is the animals that make the land, and the land that makes our coffee. The increased costs of this approach are therefore a small price to pay, for in return, we are rewarded with both our delicious coffee, and the insurance of our integrated, collaborative relationship with the natural world. This is how we make the second core facet of our mission a reality at the very roots of our chain of production:
2. Care for the planet
In short, paying our producers fairly is the backbone of both our ethical and environmental mission. It is sadly the case that we can only make a small difference in a massive industry. However, we like to think that we set a good example for how business ought to be done in speciality coffee, and that consequently we can play our part in the movement for change.