Sustainable Coffee Brands
– Our Buy Ensemble Picks –
Millions of people around the world start their days with coffee (at least the type of people with a good head on their shoulders 😉). Whether you prefer a milky Vietnamese coffee, a sweet Cuban espresso, or an American-style drip, a cup of coffee is essential to fuel our days!
And thankfully, the coffee industry supports our obsession, with over 80% of our beans being made by 25 million smallholders from Peru to Nicaragua and Ethiopia. But despite coffee being one of the most widely traded tropical products, those working in the global coffee supply chain can often barely make enough to feed their families!
That’s why we put together this resource here, as a ‘one-stop shop’ for you to find the most sustainable coffee brands, who are prioritizing not just their profits, but the people and our planet as well.
Our Buy Ensemble Picks: Sustainable Coffee Brands
Dean’s is making the world a better place through coffee. In 1993, founder Dean Cycon set out to forge his own direct relationship with growers around the world. Today, Dean’s is organic, Fair Trade, bird-friendly, and a Certified B Corp.
On top of their certification commitments, Dean’s distributes their profits to community projects for each region they purchase from. Plus, they’re coffee roasters, too. We love their single-origin Colombian!
Based in Raleigh, Larry’s is another all-time favorite in the sustainable coffee industry for their dedication to environmental sustainability and ethical production. Their eco-friendly coffee beans are freshly roasted and delivered straight to your door.
Everything Larry’s does as a business serves the planet. They’re a Certified B Corp, with beans that are organic, fair trade, and shade-grown. Their zero-waste campus is powered by renewable energy.
Love dogs and coffee? Then Grounds & Hounds is for you. They donate 20% of all profits to their network of rescue organizations.
Their beans are carefully sourced, roasted in small batches, and they’re Certified USDA Organic and Fair Trade. On their website, each roast shows the best brewing method to perfectly embody the flavor of the coffee. Try their Single Origin Mexican Chiapas, grown in the rich volcanic soil of Southern Mexico.
A tea-only drinker lost in coffee talk? Stick around. Blk & Bold has a collection of loose-leaf teas, including matcha and mate. Coffee drinkers, Blk & Bold has some of the best beans around, all served with a side of social impact.
First, 5% of all profits are donated to youth nonprofits prioritizing education and workforce development. On top of that, They're Fair Trade Certified, Black-owned, a B Corp, and trade directly with farmers. Check out their unique 'steeped coffees' for the drinker on the go!
With 100% solar-powered roasting and ethical sourcing, Wonderstate is a Midwestern coffee company with strong guiding principles rooted in making long-lasting change.
You won't see a Fair Trade seal on their many roasts, because they pay more than 80% above the Fair Trade Certified minimum for their beans. Try one of their top-rated blends, like Organic Heartstrings or Organic Panorama for a truly one-of-a-kind coffee experience.
Conscious Coffees embeds responsibility for the planet and its people in everything they do.
Conscious Coffees extends beyond fair trade through their B Corporation Certification and meaningful relationships with coffee farmers and co-ops. From roasting to packaging, Conscious Coffees is considerate of their carbon footprint and the lives they touch through their coffee production. Try their Sumatra, a dark-medium roast from Indonesia!
After spending time in Guatemala and seeing how little income coffee growers were making, the founders of Ethical Bean got to work. From crop to cup, Ethical Bean specializes in fully traceable, fair trade, and organic coffee.
Ethical Bean seasonally sources their beans, which means that they’re cultivated at their peak quality. Scan the QR code on each bag of beans to learn when your beans were roasted, who grew them, and what they like to do in their free time.
Founded in 1995 by two women, Equator Coffees sought to make the world a better place through coffee before most competitors were doing so.
Today, they’re a Certified B Corp serving up Fair Trade, USDA Organic coffee in their seven California coffee shops. Equator stays true to their values of transparency and accountability by sharing the stories of their growers and making an impact in the lives of their growing communities. Plus, they have decaf for our non-caffeinated friends!
The Issues in Sustainable & Ethical Coffee Production
Working & Labor Conditions: Like many agricultural commodities, workers in the coffee industry are often subjected to poor conditions for little pay. In addition to chemical and pesticide exposure without health benefits or employer support, child labor is also an industry issue. For these reasons, fair trade initiatives create a safety net for workers by requiring a minimum price. If the global price for coffee sinks below the minimum, farmers are protected, providing them with a more stable income. Fair trade also ensures safe working conditions and creates funds for community projects that enhance public health, education, and the environment.
Environmental Concerns: Traditionally, coffee is shade-grown. This is healthier for the plants and the quality of the soil. It also cools the ground and protects plants from pests and diseases. Unfortunately, most coffee is now sun-grown in large plantations to increase yield. This heightens deforestation, forces farmers to monocrop, and degrades soil quality, which reduces its ability to capture harmful greenhouse gases such as carbon.
We know that climate change and agriculture are crucially linked, yet farming practices still shift towards higher returns and immediate benefits over long-term sustainability. Some areas in Latin America have experienced climate change-induced drought that threatened coffee production. In many cases, coffee globalization has caused patterns of migration, as intensified farming practices lead to desertification and force people to find work elsewhere.
Coffee Industry FAQs
What is the most ethical coffee? What is the most sustainable coffee?
The most ethical coffee is third-party certified to meet high standards for workers’ rights and environmental impact. When you’re looking for coffee, check for labels such as the USDA Organic Certification, Rainforest Alliance Certified, B Corporation, and Fair Trade Certified Coffee. By paying an extra dollar or two for this compared to uncertified coffee beans, you’ll be having a direct impact on the well-being of people and the planet.
The most sustainable coffee is sourced and brewed with a low impact on the environment. It also considers the intersection of people, planet, and profit, instead of purely profit.
What is the most environmentally friendly way to make coffee?
Try brewing your coffee at home instead of frequenting coffee shops and using disposable cups. Once you’ve chosen an ethical whole bean coffee, grind it with a hand grinder for maximum freshness. Then, use a low-waste method, such as cold brewing, French press, pour-over, or percolator. Avoid k-cups or other single-serve coffee machines, as these pods are often not recyclable.
And when you’re done brewing, composting those grounds ensures that the nutrients get back to the earth. You have the power to change the world with your coffee habits. Isn’t that incredible?
How bad is coffee for the environment?
Not all coffee is bad for the environment. The reliance on sun-growing coffee has caused deforestation in areas with high levels of biodiversity, such as the Amazon in Brazil. However, cultivating naturally grown coffee is not harmful to the environment.
Traditionally, coffee grows in mountainous regions interspersed with trees. We all know the importance of trees! All these plants rely on one another, and they keep the soil nutritious, helping it to retain water and collect carbon. Shade-grown coffee is beneficial for the planet, and more coffee producers are eager to farm their arabica plants this way again.
Learn More About Sustainable, Better-for-the-World Coffee
on the Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Podcast to chat about the global impact of coffee.
Learn more about specific Fair Trade Coffee Brands that are doing impactful work.
How Reuse (And a Coffee Cup!) Can Prevent Climate Change
Learn the story of the now trendy glass and cork reusable coffee cup company, KeepCup.
Want to learn how to get your brand listed in our directory? Get connected with us here.
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