Leading U.S. grocers The Kroger Co. and Albertsons Cos. are joining with Fair Trade USA, the leading certifier of fair trade products in North America, in collaboration with the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, to support sustainable coffee sourcing and improved farmer livelihoods.
These commitments come as instability in the coffee industry has driven prices down, causing severe financial hardships for farmers and farming communities, as shown by joint research from Cornell University and Fair Trade USA. The volatile market has millions of producers looking for the price assurances and community development funds provided by the Fair Trade model, making this collaborative initiative among such a range of industry leaders such a meaningful action at this moment.
Cincinnati-based Kroger, with nearly 2,800 stores, has renewed its strong commitment to fair trade as part of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge. “Kroger’s Simple Truth brand is committed to sourcing 100% Fair Trade Certified coffee,” said Lisa Zwack, head of sustainability at Kroger. “We are proud to share that we already source 100% of our Simple Truth coffees from abroad in accordance with Fair Trade standards. We will uphold this commitment as we add new products and new coffee-growing regions — including those in the U.S. — become certified over the next few years.”
As part of its commitment to the challenge, Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons has pledged that by mid-2020, 100% of its O Organics coffee will be certified sustainable according to the Fair Trade USA standard or an equivalent. “We put a lot of effort into helping people live better lives and strengthening the communities where we do business,” said Chad Coester, Albertsons’ own brands senior vice president. “By responsibly sourcing our O Organics coffee, Albertsons is again expanding its commitment to improving livelihoods and the environment.”
"The pricing crisis that coffee farmers are facing is devastating and putting families in dire need of support from the industry,” said Abby Ayers, head of retail partnerships at Fair Trade USA. “We are encouraged by the commitments made by these prominent retailers, which will have a significant impact on farming communities around the globe and bring attention to the urgent need for improvement in outdated coffee sourcing practices in order to preserve our beloved morning beverage.”
The Sustainable Coffee Challenge is a collaborative effort of companies, governments, NGOs, research institutions and others to transition the coffee sector to be fully sustainable. Challenge partners are urgently working together to increase transparency, align around a common vision for sustainability and collaborate to accelerate progress toward those goals. Launched during the 2015 Paris climate meetings with 18 founding partners, the Challenge aims to stimulate greater demand for sustainable coffee. The movement has since grown to more than 100 international partners.
Kroger and Albertsons join other retailers and members of the coffee industry that are taking part in the Sustainable Coffee Challenge including Target Corp., Williams Sonoma, Chartwells Higher Ed, UCLA, Bon Appetit Management Company, Atlas Coffee Importers, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) and a host of others. According to Fair Trade USA, together these pledges will contribute to the additional sales of millions of pounds of Fair Trade Certified coffee, resulting in significant increases in prices paid and community development funds. Coffee sold on fair trade terms grants farmers increased market access with the opportunity to sell their coffee on more sustainable terms and find an alternative to the volatility of conventional coffee markets.