The decades-old nonprofit Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has unveiled a new curated product platform called CRS Ethical Trade, with coffee by far being the largest product category.
CRS Ethical trade is actually a reboot of a CRS buying guide that launched under the name Fair Trade in 2005, and the organization has updated the platform with an new website, expanded product offerings, and a revamped and revised vetting process for producer partners to better reflect practical evolutions regarding fair trade and ethical trade concepts over the past decade.
“A lot has changed since 2005.” CRS’s Simone Blanchard recently told Daily Coffee News. “We started looking at where the market is now, what is available in fair trade.”
Through its two-part vetting process, CRS Ethical Trade has expanded its criteria for product qualification in three primary categories: Respect for workers (ensuring fair and prompt payment, protection for women and children, safe working conditions, and third party verification); respect for communities (supporting outreach efforts in communities from which products are sourced, and honoring producers’ cultural norms and practices); and respect for the environment (sustainable production practices, materials and methods).
Once an application is approved, the platform itself works as a kind of affiliate marketing program, with CRS Ethical Trade promoting the online marketplace and taking a small cut from each sale to funnel back into other CRS programs. The platform recently launched with 20 producer partners, 10 of them from the coffee category.
Blanchard explained to Daily Coffee News that all of the coffee roasters — most of whom are members of the green coffee importing cooperative Coop Coffees — were grandfathered into the program, although coffee nonetheless represents a natural fit in its potential for buyers and roasters to meet the CRS Ethical Trade criteria.
Though CRS Ethical Trade has just recently launched, Blanchard said it has already piqued the interest of several new buyers, particularly larger institutional buyers. Said Blanchard, “We thought we would get a lot of individuals who are interested in this, but we’re getting a lot more interest from Catholic institutions.”