Sooner or later, it has to happen. The raters are rated. Jorrit Reintjes has written an excellent M.A. thesis for Rotterdam's RSM Erasmus University on "How Do You Take Your Coffee Production?" He rates eight standards for sustainable coffee supply chains. Coffee is a good product to start with. It's legal, calorie-free and is addictive yet has healthful properties. They say that when human life becomes extinct on earth the beetles will survive. In the same vein, at an NYU Stern seminar last week, the consensus among panelists was that in the deepest recession, coffee sellers will thrive.
The eight coffee standards are FairTrade (FLO), Utz Certified, Common Codes for the Coffee Community (4C), Rainforest Alliance, Globalgap, Organic (EKO), SA8000 and Sara Lee's Global Standards.
The five overall criteria for rating the raters are: scope of standards, rigor, embeddedness, compliance information system, and non-compliance response system.
As might be expected, the single-company standard fell short in every category. The three top-performing standards were FairTrade (FLO), Rainforest Alliance and SA8000. One characteristic of these three standards is that the organization sponsors are long-term members of the ISEAL Alliance and they know what it takes to develop, institute and enforce a global multi-stakeholder standard. Some of the other organizations have joined ISEAL and can therefore be expected to be moving in the right direction.
Jorrit deserves huge praise for this detailed and thoughtfully executed study. His professors at RSM Erasmus University also deserve commendation. As Jorrit notes, there is room for further work in this area. Meanwhile, this is a major contribution to the field.
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