Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. This isn't so surprising when the average person drinks at least one cup a day. But to drive this market, many companies source their coffee from unethical distributors. These distributors use forced and child labor to drive the various parts of the coffee production pipeline in over 16 different countries, as shown in the Department of Labor’s 2019 report on trafficking. For even more information about the coffee industry, consider reading Free2Work’s report on Coffee Industry Trends.
Why is this different than other trafficked goods?
The production of coffee requires multiple steps from harvesting to sorting to packing. The coffee must be hand-picked off the trees, de-pulped to extract the seeds, and later sorted to remove defective beans. Around the world, there are countries using forced and child labor to drive the work required to produce coffee. What does that mean? It involves recruiting children and deceiving workers. It involves long shifts under threat of physical harm with little to no pay. Unfortunately, for some small farms, it is extremely difficult to break even on production costs and they resort to this unethical conduct.
What can I do to help?
As a consumer, you can help reduce the prevalence of human trafficking by supporting companies that ethically source their goods and avoiding those that do not. By supporting this ethical consumer-retailer relationship, you are also helping the small farmers’ ability to sell their premium products at a higher price as well as pay their workers fair wages, allowing them to be ethical distributors. The following companies are open in their efforts against human trafficking, and have made efforts to provide their product without the use of forced or child labor.