How Fair is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade isn’t always what we believe it to be. Check out how OQ uses Direct Trade and Green Bean Buying Principles to help spread "Daily Happy" to our farming partners.

Fair Trade Coffee
These days, conscientious consumers often look out for the Fair Trade logo before sitting down to enjoy their morning cuppa, whether they are at home or out and about. However, fair trade may not be the ethical guarantee you’re seeking. 

Here’s an explainer, plus some information about a better alternative.

Misconceptions About Fair Trade

Because many products, especially coffee, are sourced from developing countries, growers and workers need protection from exploitation. The Fair Trade movement was established to fight the mistreatment of disempowered people.

However, sources such as outline the misconceptions consumers have about Fair Trade. For example: 

  • Fair Trade benefits growers in the long term: Not necessarily. Fair Trade has not yet proved to make a positive difference.
  • Fair Trade ensures growers get the best prices for their goods: Fair Trade can limit the market potential of growers because of the time and effort put towards compliance.
  • Fair Trade is up to date and moves with the times: Fair Trade has changed very little since its inception.
  • Fair Trade coffee is better quality: Fair Trade coffee doesn’t necessarily go through the same rigorous quality testing that other coffee does.

While the Fair Trade mission is admirable and definitely has its place in the world, the truth is it is not perfect. Fair Trade is a nod towards ethical trade but has yet to achieve it. At its worst, Fair Trade can just be ‘greenwashing’.

The Direct Trade Movement 

The good news is that Fair Trade is not the only option. The Direct Trade movement gives buyers the opportunity to partner with growers in a more meaningful way. It generally works to ensure that growers in developing countries earn the money they deserve. 

Old Quarter Coffee Direct Trade

One of the issues with Fair Trade is that it guarantees a price from the seller but does not factor in profit. The price a buyer pays may not cover the cost it took to produce the beans, let alone enough to create a prosperous future.

With Direct Trade: 

  • Growers are paid actual market price
  • The whole trade process, from bean farm to coffee cup, is traceable and transparent
  • Benefits to growers trickle through their communities
  • Sustainable farming practices are encouraged
  • Coffee is usually of a higher quality
However, it's important to note that because the Direct Trade movement is unregulated, not every company claiming to be Direct Trade delivers better results for farmers. That's why Old Quarter Coffee created their Green Bean Buying Principles to ensure their buying process delivers these benefits to the community.
Initiatives like Old Quarter Coffee’s Optimism Exchange Campaign represent a commitment to the communities where their coffee is grown that goes above and beyond any certifications requirements.

Get to Know the Optimism Exchange Campaign




Around the world, farmers work all day so Australians can have quality coffee. Helping to provide clean drinking water is the least we can do in exchange. 

Old Quarter takes 10% from every kilo of coffee sold and puts it towards helping farmers to have cleaner and fresher drinking water. 

Having been established in Sumatra and Vietnam, the Optimism Exchange Campaign is now focusing on Laos. 

Optimism Exchange Laos Water Well Project

Make a difference with every cup 

Join the Direct Trade movement. Support Old Quarter’s Laos Good Drop initiative, and every cup of coffee you drink makes a direct difference to a farming community in this developing nation. 

With the Laos Good Drop, you can help us change the lives of our farming partners and their entire village, just by buying coffee. Every kilo of coffee sold will help build a much-needed well for our farming partners and their community. 

Now that's a Good Drop!

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