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Do Sustainable Certifications For Coffee Really Help Coffee Growers?

"Most of the time, we don't know how our coffee were made. We don't know if children's hands handled the berries when they might have been handling pencils, if workers had respirators to protect against harsh agrochemicals or if global coffee prices shafted the farmer this year. Sustainable certifications, like the Rainforest Alliance's green frog tag or Fairtrade's yellow and blue sticker, are a way people try to verify their coffee is up to a certain standard."

"But, according to a recent paper from the Center for Global Development reviewing roughly 100 studies from the last decade, it's almost impossible to tell if those certifications have any measurable effect on coffee growers. 'To do good analysis of impact, you need to plan that in from the beginning,' says Kimberly Elliott, the author of the paper and a political scientist at the Center, an economic research nonprofit. 'It's expensive to do that and, in the beginning, nobody was doing that.'"

"For example, there weren't many defined baselines for how farmers were doing before they got certified, and people weren't comparing certified farmers to similar but uncertified farmers, Elliott says. Certification organizations haven't been able to directly monitor may of the growers that they certify either, Elliott says. 'There's very little actual monitoring or measuring of the outcomes that you want to see going on,' she says. 'For example, studies suggest [after certification programs] there's more safety equipment for workers. Do they actually use it? Are they healthier? Not clear.'"


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