Why I will never buy Illy coffee

Illy can
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter

Over at Quartz, the Chairman and CEO of the Italian coffee giant Illy says he will never buy Fair Trade coffee beans.

People buy fair trade products as a way of showing “solidarity” with coffee bean farmers, Illy said—”to pay more for a product than it is worth on the market for the sake of fighting against poverty.” Illy says that’s unsustainable: “They drink fair trade products occasionally for the sake of feeling right, not necessarily regularly.” And even if people continue to buy fair trade products, he said, they’re more apt to switch brands.

I love Illy coffee and used to buy a lot of it. It comes in wonderful tins too, I have a basement full of them that I use for storage of nuts and bolts. But I don't buy it anymore, and haven't since I became a TreeHugger and learned about Fair Trade.

I feel better knowing that the farmer is getting at least a floor price, and believe that fighting poverty is important. I don't mind paying a premium of 20 cents a pound that "is used by producer organizations for social and economic investments at the community and organizational level." I am thrilled that "the application of environmental standards restricts the use of agrochemicals and promotes sustainable agriculture."

I am willing to pay a fair price for my coffee. I drink a lot of it regularly and I don't switch brands, but stay loyal to my locally roasted fair trade shade grown bird friendly Coffeecology espresso and to Laurie, the wonderful bike delivery lady.

Chairman Illy says his sustainability efforts go "beyond fair trade." He does tell a good story on his website. But just as he has chosen to not buy fair trade, I and a whole lot of others have chosen not to buy Illy. To suggest we are dilettantes who drink fair trade "occasionally for the sake of feeling right" ensures that we never will again.

Here is a link to Fair Trade America, with information about where you can find international Fair Trade products.

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Tags: Coffee | Fair Trade