Transparency Report 2021: Why is transparency important?
By Calum Taylor
Webshop Manager and Wholesale
Here in Copenhagen, we at Prolog love to deliver amazing coffee experiences for our guests. We want to communicate through these experiences how diverse and fascinating the world of coffee can be and provide an environment for people to relax and be present in the moment with delicious coffees.
None of this can be possible without first working with farmers to source the highest quality of coffees. The question then becomes, how can we do that, both as a roastery and an industry, in a way that is sustainable in the long term for everyone involved in the world of coffee production? How can we support coffee farmers in a way that allows them to produce at their highest level, not just for one harvest, but consistently over time?
The reality is, coffee farmers have historically and systematically not been supported financially in the market for their production. Compared to their prices for production, coffee producers have and continue to be paid dangerously low for the coffee they produce. One of the reasons why the price paid has been historically low is the structure of the market itself. Largely, coffee is produced in tropical regions that have colonial pasts. In the time period where colonial powers were strongest, the worldwide demand and production for coffee was rapidly expanding, and many natives were exploited for their labour. Under their colonisers, working conditions and pay for coffee producers was simply at an unacceptable level. Today, even though colonial powers no longer exist, many of structures that exploit coffee farmers and keep the price of coffee so artificially low remain.
This is a very brief simplification of the effect of colonialism on coffee pricing but if you are interested in reading further, we would recommend taking a look at the book Coffeeland by Augustine Sedgewick.
When there has been outside pressures that have historically kept the price of coffee artificially low, it is very easy for the general public to accept that because this is the price that coffee has always been, this is the price that coffee should be. This is incredibly problematic when the price anchored in people’s minds of the ‘correct’ price to be pay for coffee, is the same price at which producers are being kept in a cycle of poverty. Not only is that a terrible situation on a human level for the producers, but it is a situation where quality and output in the market as a whole cannot be sustained, let alone improved upon.
All coffee companies want their consumers to believe that they are operating in a way that is sound and ethical. The vast majority of people would not want to interact with a business that is knowingly working in a way which damages the lives of those who are involved in their supply chain. Many in the industry spend heavily in order to curate a story of their company, stating they work in a sustainable manner, and in a way benefits everyone involved. Whilst words can certainly be persuasive, they mean nothing without the data behind them that shows that they are doing what they say they are doing.
This is the root of why transparency is so important in our industry. As a part of The Pledge, Prolog has committed, along with many other roasteries and individuals, to openly publishing the price paid for the green coffee that we receive. Our transparency table, showing all the coffees that Prolog purchased in 2021, can be found here.
As a group of like-minded companies, The Pledge aims to set an example, educating about and communicating the need for transparency. With the proper communication of this, it is our hope that coffee-drinkers will be informed enough to start demanding transparency of the companies that they purchase from. If you want to read more about the values and objectives of The Pledge, you can visit the website transparency.coffee
With openly published prices from a number of roasteries, also comes a new benchmark for buyers and sellers in the coffee industry. In particular, producers can understand better what their coffee may be worth, and they can demand this price when negotiating with exporters and coffee roasteries. Challenging the old dynamics and pricing structures of the market gives more power to the producers and allows them to take a larger share of the value they produce.
We want to show that we mean what we say, when we say that we want to work in an industry where producers are being supported enough to live a comfortable and dignified life. It is only under these conditions that producers rightfully feel like they are able to invest in the knowledge and equipment required to improve agricultural practices and post-harvest processing. It is truly the basis for ensuring we can maintain and expand quality in the years to come.