Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

October 27, 2011

Plant a seed

A group of friends and I have started a project of sorts where we ask tough questions of the companies whose products we consume. Coffee for example, the farmers who grow the beans and do all the hard work are often the poorest and yet the companies like Tim Hortons and Starbucks are making millions off of those same beans. So, we ask the companies about their practices, we don't yell and scream or rant and demand, we simply ask 'how will you change things to make it better?'.

I wrote to Tim Hortons and got a standard response that is seen on the website which speaks about a wonderful sounding partnership with the farmers and a new plan to implement a new strategy about fair payment of farmers, better health care etc, but when I delved further into when they plan to actually implement that plan I did not receive a reply. Second Cup offers fair trade, but not all the coffee they sell is actually fair trade, in fact only one brand is and it's not often brewed. We took October to take a look at the coffee industry, and now that November is approaching we are going to delve into the world of chocolate.

So far, in my reading, the chocolate world is much worse than the coffee world and not a whole lot is being done to change that. Nestle for example is not fair trade at all, and cadbury's sells dairy milk bars that are fair trade but they have not yet hit the stands in Canada and a date has not yet been set (or at least that I have been able to discover). I would love to stand corrected here if you know better?

As the year progresses we will look at all different companies, writing emails (really easy in this high tech age) and asking simple questions. Some write back, some don't. Some respond with rhetoric written by their PR department and others sound more like politicians trying to circle the actual questions. However, by asking the questions we are putting it on their radar that people care, and maybe if enough people care then one day the companies will care more too.

What do we do with the information we gather? I don't know yet, I still get a coffee from Tim Hortons on Sunday mornings, but I will also continue to question them about that new 'plan' they have yet to implement and maybe one day soon they will actually do something about it. As consumers of their products we have the right to know what it is we are buying and how our purchase is affecting the people at ground level, the farmers or pickers or sewers. In some cases they are simply children being paid well under the legal limit and should be in school not a factory.

We can't change the world with a question, but we can plant a seed.