Equal Exchange is committed to supporting sustainable agriculture practices. For nearly 30 years we've developed relationships with small farmer co-ops. Each of these co-ops has its own unique social, political and ecological history and is engaged in fostering sustainable agricultural production systems. Our mission to work with small farmer cooperatives has led us to work in regions with extensive landscape degradation. The market access we provide to producers in these regions is critical to restoring these landscapes.
Over 98% of Equal Exchange coffees are certified organic by volume. The overwhelming majority of these organic coffees are shade grown. Some of the coffees that are not, are produced in locales where deforestation has occurred. The land in these areas is in transition; it is in the process of being restored with agro-forestry systems using coffee as the principal crop.
While the shade grown certification system is appropriate for some growers we do not believe it provides sufficient additional benefits for us to ask our producer partners to go through this process on top of the Fair Trade and organic standards they are already meeting. Both organic and Fair Trade standards have environmental components that cover much of what shade grown certification requires. From our perspective, shade certification does not significantly alter the practices of farms that are already Fair Trade and organic certified.