Every October, cooperative businesses around the country come together to raise awareness of a trusted, proven way to do business and build communities by celebrating Co-op Month. Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness and social responsibility. As an international cooperative formed by coffee cooperatives in Latin America and Africa, Pachamama Coffee is a prime example of the importance and power that comes from cooperative ownership.
This year the theme chosen by NCBA CLUSA is Build Back for Impact. It’s “a chance to leverage our shared cooperative identity in the face of some of the biggest challenges we face: a global pandemic, climate emergency and systemic racism. As we build back an economy that works for everyone, our biggest impact comes from embracing the values and principles that make us truly unique.”
The last year highlighted the need, more than ever, for an economy that works for every one, not just those at the top. This resonates strongly with us, as Pachamama has been working for a more equal coffee system for over 15 years. As Pachamama's President of the Board, Merling Preza, stated in her acceptance speech for the 2021 SCA Sustainability Award for Business Model,
"In order for a business model to be sustainable, there has to be benefits for everyone along the chain."
Pachamama was founded by the bold vision of coffee farmers to own their own coffee brand, one where they were put first in the coffee supply chain, not last. By changing the traditional ownership model of coffee, farmers can now reap the rewards of their hard work. In the 2020 report by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, they stated
“purchase coffee directly from the farmer. This is the most impactful action a consumer can take to ensure the farmer earns more of the final retail price.”
Through the cooperative model, Pachamama's farmer-owners earned on average 11x more for their coffee than in the traditional supply chain model.
Cooperatives are governed by seven shared principles to set them apart from other business models. Principle 2 focuses on democratic member control in the cooperative. This allows producers of coffee to hold real power; to have not only a voice but a real vote in the boardroom. Five member cooperatives in five coffee origins own and govern Pachamama: Prodecoop in Nicaragua, La Union Regional in Mexico, COCLA in Peru, Manos Campesinas in Guatemala, and OCFCU in Ethiopia.
Each of these cooperatives implement excellent programs for their members, such as farming education, health initiatives, gender equity programs, scholarships for children of members and even clean water projects. Through cooperative organizing and pooling their resources, small scale coffee farmers collectively build their communities for success.
Just as the farmer members vote for their own board of directors at each cooperative, they vote in one representative to sit on the Pachamama Board of Directors, where each member earns one vote for decisions of Pachamama Coffee. They decide the direction of the business and employ workers in the United States to ensure their vision and goals are met. It is an honor to work for coffee farmers and to pursue a future for coffee where farmers can be at the forefront.
When you choose to purchase directly from the farmers, you empower communities by making them the owners of the finished product and valuable brand. Your choice strengthens a virtuous circle that provides profits and sustainability, social and economic empowerment for farmer families and in turn leads to better coffee for you every harvest.
Cooperatives give governance and voices to those who are most impacted by the choices of business. Join us as we celebrate Co-op Month to pursue better business for all and subscribe to coffee farmers. To learn more about the ways our member cooperatives are impacting their local communities visit their websites as linked above.