Fair trade coffee and human rights in Guatemala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


This paper explores how the fair trade coffee market translates consumer action and shopping habits into the promotion of human rights in distant locales. This process does not occur through direct producer-consumer contact. Instead, it is channeled through two interrelated avenues. First, the fair trade certification system which requires producer groups to be democratic, transparent, and accountable and second, the relationships between producers and coffee roasters and importers, who, in this specific commodity chain, act as conduits for consumer actions and intentions. These two facets of the fair trade consumer market promote and protect the secure organizational space that is necessary for producer initiated community development. This freedom to identify and fulfill economic and social development goals through cooperation also reaffirms existing cultural traditions of service and mutual aid among producers. These key components of human rights compliance are critically important in countries such as Guatemala with its history of violent repression, structural inequality, and cultural discrimination against indigenous populations and community organizers. The analysis emerges from ongoing ethnographic research on a group of indigenous, fair trade coffee producers in Guatemala and their relationships with outside buyers and certifiers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-261
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Consumer Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Above it was argued that fair trade marketing materials raise the international profile of cooperatives among consumers and provide them with allies who could potentially prove useful in times of need. An example of this in practice is the leading role the cooperative played in securing emergency relief funds and assistance in the wake of hurricane Stan’s October 2005 devastation.4 After the devastation, the cooperative immediately contacted its North American coffee roaster who sent financial assistance and a group of employees who worked with members to rebuild several homes for displaced families. These efforts were funded by the roasters’ profits earned largely through fair trade coffee sales.


  • Coffee
  • Consumption
  • Fair trade
  • Human rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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