Cooperative Coffees now IMO Certified!
If you are a regular visitor to our blog, you probably have read one of our tirades on the greenwashing that happens in the coffee industry. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, it means “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” I almost didn’t use this word because it is so recklessly thrown around, almost as much as “ethical”, “sustainable” and “all natural.” But when I read this definition, it so perfectly fit the practices of so many in the coffee (and many other) industry, that I had to keep it.
Caveat Emptor – What it really comes down to is that it is the consumer’s responsibility to look deeper and see if the claims of their coffee roaster are actually true. Looking at a few websites, I found a number of claims that were vague, meaningless or misleading:
- “all organic and shade grown”
- “price for coffee set by the coffee growers themselves and is paid to them directly”
- “strong transparent relationships”
Often these types of claims are made with no further information…isn’t “transparent” supposed to mean something? In many cases, no verification is possible for the consumer without a great deal of investigation. There is a simple way to look deeper with less work…look for third party certification from a reputable group.
Third party Certification
Many roasters are working hard to honestly bring you genuine certified organic, fair trade, sustainable (or whatever term is popular) coffees. Just look at their websites, talk to them, and you can see some of the exciting work they are doing. But look deeper and look/ask for third party certification. If they are telling the truth, they will be happy to share their documentation with you (like their organic certificate, certificates from fair trade organizations, SLIPS score, IMO, etc).
Organic – look for the USDA organic seal. Or the words “certified organic by…”. This guarantees that your coffee is organic. A detailed and in depth inspection has been done at both the farm and the roastery. All certified organic coffee has a paper trail that can be followed from the bag of roasted coffee you buy, all the way back to the farm (and every stop in between). Beware of roasters who claim their coffee is “organic” without the seal or the certifying body’s name…this is illegal. Certified organic handlers can be verified at the USDA’s website ( and they will be happy to show you their certificate).
Fair Trade/Sustainable/Ethical – many third party organizations verify/certify “fair trade” and “sustainable”. Lots of logos/terms are used, some mean more than others. The bottom line is…what parts of fair trade/sustainable/ethical are important to you? Pick those labels that are verifiable, and buy from companies that offer facts (documentation, not just broad claims) about exactly what these terms mean in their business and how committed they are to these principles.
Cooperative Coffees is IMO certified
Our green bean importing collective, Cooperative Coffees, has been officially certified under IMO’s Fair for Life program. The new program was founded in 2006 by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) and the Swiss Bio-Foundation in response to the growing need for a system that included a broader range of products and operations. “Fair for Life” complements existing certifications by incorporating standards from FLO, ISEAL, Rainforest Alliance, SA 8000 (from Social Accountability International) and ILO.
One of the unique things about IMO certification is that there it uses a “rating approach” which gives us a score and allows for continued improvement. You can see our score here: FairForLife.
You can also check the document trail for our coffees, view the organic transaction certificates, the organic certificates of the farms, the prices we paid, contracts, payments to farmer groups, etc. at: fairtradeproof.org
Here’s a bit more on what the IMO certification means.
Make a Difference
Fair for Life Social & FairTrade Certification guarantees you that the products have been produced in a fair and sustainable way:
- at all production stages workers enjoy their basic rights and are treated well
- no child labour, no forced labour, no discrimination
- safe working conditions without risk to health
- workers are paid decent wages, have reasonable working hours and have at least basic social security
- workers have freedom to organize themselves to negotiate better working conditions and address their concerns
- if your product has been produced by smallholder farmers, the farmers have a saying in their organisation and get a reasonable price for their products
Fair Trade & Social Development
- long term trade relations, fair prices, support between trade partners
- a fairtrade premium is invested directly in social community projects for farmers and workers, e.g. basic health care, support of local schools, building better & safe wells in remote villages,sanitary facilities for deprived workers houses, etc.
Traceability and Transparency
Certified products are fully traceable at all stages.