Owning a coffee shop puts you in a unique position to make decisions that affect the world beyond your front door. As consumers increasingly make their voices heard by purchasing with their conscience, they are apt to choose one coffee shop over another if they feel that shop shares their values—such as by carrying sustainable coffee(s). Thus when all else is equal, retailers can distinguish themselves by investing in causes that will ultimately affect their future.
Take the very real issue of coffee pricing versus coffee quality. When an abundance of low-grade coffee comes into the market and sells cheaply, the price for higher-quality beans also goes down. Farmers who have invested in growing and processing a quality crop don’t end up making enough money to cover their costs, forcing them to consider growing coffee at the cheapest means possible (and thus perpetuating poor quality) or to start growing a different product altogether. Not to mention that if the consumer is consistently exposed to cheap, bitter coffee they will either expect to always pay a pittance, or decide to drink something else.
It’s even conceivable that if low-grade coffee were to dominate the market year after year, enough farmers would quit growing specialty coffee that, there will no longer be a supply of specialty-graded, sustainable coffees.
Thankfully certifying bodies like USDA Organic, Bird Friendly, Rainforest Alliance, FairTrade International—as well as the Direct Trade model—are helping farmers get a fairer price and for producing specialty coffee (though just how much it helps is up for debate) while also incentivizing environmental protections for the next generation of coffee farmers and the ecosystems around them.
Nonetheless, it’s helping to some degree. If you are already selling a certified coffee, make sure your customers know about it. It could be the one thing they consider when deciding where to spend their money.