McDonald’s has moved to make every cup of coffee from its McCafe’s count in the race to save the earth. The McCafe is a relatively new component to the fast food chain’s golden arches that aims for the perch now held by Starbucks along with other specialty coffee chains. Most of the McCafe’s are located outside the United States with 15 outlets opened in Japan in 2007. The McCafe’s beans will come only from farms that have the stamp of the Rainforest Alliance.
According to the Rainforest Alliance’s website, “Our independent seal of approval ensures that goods and services were produced in compliance with strict guidelines protecting the environment, wildlife, workers and local communities.” They also go on to say, “The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.” The Rainforest Alliance does not want to be confused with the Rainforest Foundation and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) even though they acknowledge that their goals are similar.
Will this move for greener coffee help the coffee farmers as well? While this coffee is grown in an environmentally responsible manner, it is not the same as Fair Trade. According to Wikipedia, “Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to alleviating global poverty and promoting sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods.”
While all of these certifications can be confusing and the question of how much the farmers actually benefit will probably never go away, the good news is that consciousness of these issues on a global level at least creates movement toward better solutions. A great article about the meaning of all of these certifications called, “Making Sense of Certification — Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, Whole Trade, and Organic” further explains.
If McDonald’s is trying to ensure success with its McCafe’s, addressing social issues such as Fair Trade and sustainability would certainly go a long way in making that happen.