All certifications seem to be responses to historical abuses of people and environment that have their base in coffee as commodity. Fortunately, most people who visit forums like this seem to have a different angle on coffee and employ their own recipes for fairness and environmental responsibility.
Most of our companies are experiencing coffee discovery that would seem to be way beyond the need to defensively certify anything (at least not to eachother). We all seem happy to pay significantly more than what Fair Trade pays, and I think we do this because we can.
We can pay more because a market for high-priced coffee is opening up for us at home. This is really good news for all of us as businesspeople from western cities all the way to the farm.
I think that to fill the fuel tank for any project, every important player needs to see potential benefit. And I think all of us - the retailer, the roaster, the importer, the exporter, and all of the other savvy entrepreneurs from farm to taza - we need to lose our shame about the great opportunity and reward available for us as the world wakes up to unique and special coffee.
We all ask for transparency at origin, but who of us is making our own books publicly available? How much are our baristas paid, our salespeople, our managers, our delivery drivers? Do we use biofuel to deliver our coffee? What was the bar tab at the Addis Hilton last night?
If there were 100 people in the world today who would pay $1000 for an other-worldly coffee experience in a rare cup, that would be $100,000 in revenues in a fictitious (but not unimaginable) room of privileged consumers. How much should the farmer get for the few kg required for this experience? If the farmer owns the one tree in the world that can command $1000/cup, then maybe the merit is his. What about the person who sourced the cup and recognized the flavor? What about UPS who shipped the package?
Each of us might have a different formula for reward and fairness when it comes to abundant demand for rarified/special products. In the end, each individual buyer of a pound or a cup will decide if the cost is worth the aromatic reward. I'm excited by my own willingness to pay a lot more for coffee I really love, and I'm happy to see all in the industry benefit from the additional dollars in the chain.
I would really like to see retailers differentiate their menus and their price points per cup (some already do this, Novo and select customers included). This will create a willingness to pay roasters more for coffees that sell for more per cup. Then the roaster has more money to sustain his/her business and more to put into origin. Importer and exporter must net a healthy positive from this and some will put more energy into quality for the reward. Millers, farmers, and others also need it (dealing in special quality) to be the best option available. Independent graders and brand storytellers have a place in bringing more specific information about coffees all the way to the consumer. What about processing equipment manufacturers who build equipment to micro-process coffees, record data, etc.? There are many innovators I haven't imagined who will flock to opportunity.
In the end, a lot of people need to be paid to fuel this discovery, and all of us can be. But for everyone to be excited and funded on this journey, I really feel the price point for green and roasted coffee must change dramatically.
None of us should feel guilty about prosperity from these developments. Everyone's growing skills and enthusiasm are what propel us forward.
All of our formulas will be tested for good ethics by our customers and our peers, but, hopefully, we look collectively forward at what will likely be many decades of discovery and expansion of our niche.