Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pushing Tim Hortons on Fair Trade

Canadian coffee drinkers love Tim Hortons. Many of us make multiple trips to the nearest "Timmy's" every day. But the coffee giant has so far resisted requests to offer Fair Trade certified coffee. A number of groups are working to change that.

According to the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), the Fair Trade program offers an alternative to the conventional coffee trade, ensuring that producers in developing countries get a fair price for their products. "This is accomplished through a set of trading, social and environmental standards whose implementation by producers or buyers is certified by an independent body," SHARE says. The standards are established by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), a non-profit group based in Germany.

Although Fair Trade coffee is widely available in Canada, and has been for years, it's sold mostly in smaller, independent shops. Recently, SHARE and Batirente started a dialogue with Tim Hortons to request that the company start offering Fair Trade certified coffee. Ethical Funds has announced plans to engage Tim Hortons on the same issue this year.

Tim Hortons does have a Sustainable Coffee Program, a goodwill project that aims to provide financial assistance, technical training, education and social services to a number of coffee-producing communities in Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil. That's admirable and SHARE has asked for more information on the program.

But is it enough?

SHARE, working on behalf of Meritas Mutual Funds, says it hopes to convince Tim Hortons to adopt a more forward-looking approach to coffee sourcing. "The proposed steps recognize the significance of the Fair Trade coffee market growth and the opportunities that Fair Trade presents for Tim Hortons' coffee supply management processes," says SHARE.

Average annual sales of Fair Trade coffee grew nearly 33% in Canada between 2003 and 2008. Tim Hortons has a chance to share in that growth, while at the same time helping the estimated 25 million people around the world who depend on the coffee industry to make a living.

Something to think about next time you're waiting in that long line-up for a double-double.


  1. We have some thoughts about Tim Hortons and their refusal to embrace "certified fair trade". As the public becomes more concerned and aware of fair trade, Tim Hortons will have to be more transparent with their efforts and open them up to independent verification.

    You can check out our September 23, 2009 article at

    "Actor Hugh Jackman says only 'fair trade' coffee for him. Will he buy Tim Hortons 'sustainable' coffee?

  2. I would like to point out that fair trade is not just a concept, as superchannel seems to believe. While the words fair trade and fairly traded may be bandied about, we can buy Fair Trade Certified products with confidence. Here’s what the TransFair Canada website ( has to say. “ Fair Trade is similar to a normal supply chain model of business. There are producers, importers, processors, retailers and consumers. The difference is the monitoring and certification at the core of the system which guarantees that the supply chain is built on and functions according to standards of fairness, transparency and accountability.
    Producers and their organizations are monitored and certified by the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO). In Canada, the “Licensees” (processors) are licensed and audited by TransFair Canada to ensure that they are doing business with certified producers and that they are adhering to the standards set out by FLO. “

  3. I think organic fair trade coffee is going to wind up there eventually. That combination is the key, in my view. It seems that many people don't try fair trade organic because they simply do not know exactly what it is. The industry has a way to go in terms of educating the consumers.