1 Nov 2022

“Climate justice means empowering farmers” A climate conversation with Fairtrade partner Matthew Algie

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP27 is less than two weeks away. Member State delegates, climate activists and civil society actors are all preparing to descend on Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, to ensure concrete action to keep global temperatures below the 1.5C° threshold before it is too late.

Fairtrade will be on the ground at COP27 to ensure that fair and sustainable food systems remain at the centre of each and every conversation. That’s because building sustainable food systems is not only fundamental to spearheading the global green transition but it is also key to ensuring a more equitable future for all – not least for the small-scale farmers in the frontline of climate change.

But what does a fair and sustainable food system look like? And which global stakeholders do we need on board to ensure meaningful climate action? To answer these questions and more, we reached out to members of Fairtrade’s Climate Network – a forum bringing together Fairtrade partners committed to building sustainable supply chains – and spoke to Matthew Algie’s Sustainability Manager, Amy Oroko, to get her take on building a fair and green future.

Amy Oroko

How does Matthew Algie envision the future of sustainable supply chains? What do you want to see happen?

We want to see mutually beneficial partnerships which celebrate delicious coffee, that bring economic and social development for smallholder farmers and which show a deep, genuine care for our planet. In the context of the climate crisis, we need a more urgent, collaborative effort in the coffee industry.

What kind of value added does partnering with Fairtrade deliver for you?

We are delighted to be celebrating 25 years of roasting Fairtrade coffee this year. The reassurances that it provides – whether through the standards that cooperatives have met or the Fairtrade Minimum Price guarantee – help us to ensure our supply chains are economically, environmentally and socially viable in the long-term. Over the years we’ve seen the impact of the Premium, developing our key sourcing partners into stronger, democratically organised groups who invest in their business and in their communities.

What does climate justice mean to you?

In the context of coffee supply chains, climate justice means farmers must have the resources to mitigate against the impacts of climate change. And it means those in the industry who contribute the most towards global emissions must take significant steps to decarbonise and share knowledge and resources to help farmers in their supply chains to do the same.

Which global actors do we need on-board to make sustainable supply chains a reality?

The role of governments and international organizations forms a crucial piece of the puzzle, and the hope is that COP27 will mark an acceleration in global climate action. Regulation should encourage all businesses to take ownership of the environmental issues in their supply chains and take steps to protect those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

But global consumers are also key drivers for change when it comes to supply chains specifically. Our challenge, alongside our partners like Fairtrade, is to educate our customers and the end consumers about how their purchasing habits can make a tangible difference.

How do you keep moving forward on your company's sustainability goals in the face of challenges such as the current inflation crisis?

There are so many challenges in the industry – from present challenges like inflation, exchange rate fluctuations or shortages in fertilisers, to longer-term challenges like the threat that climate change posing to the available land for coffee production. Challenges that affect us directly or indirectly via our suppliers are both extremely pertinent to our business and are often difficult to overcome. Thankfully we are in the privileged position where there is a lot of momentum and excitement internally for trying to stretch ourselves. There’s a recognition that we must play our part and the reality is that we all need to make changes now to make sure there is a market for us all in years to come.

What do you think consumers expect from you, now and going forward?

Expectations are certainly getting higher and we are being asked more and more frequently about our own ambitions for achieving net zero, the practical steps we are taking to decarbonize, and how we are engaging suppliers on the journey as well. But I do think that it’s a helpful pressure for businesses to have! It’s good to see consumer engagement with these kinds of issues on the rise.

Find out more about the Fair Trade movement’s mission at COP27.