I believe that most people really don’t want to contribute to human suffering, most people don’t want to be part of the problem. Most people DO want to be part of the solution, they just don’t know where to start - and that’s ok. If that’s you, here’s the advice I can offer you:
be selective about where you spend your money, it matters!
I was introduced to the reality of modern-day slavery in 2013 as a part of the beautiful mission of Lula’s Coffee Co. in Florence, SC. I learned the horrors of real-life exploitations of innocent people and quickly realized it was not okay - but to use the analogy of the man who introduced me to this, “it’s like standing in front of a blazing forest fire with a water pistol.”
I started where I knew to begin - my buying habits. If my enjoyment of a candy bar or sweet treat came at the expense of somebody else’s freedom, then I didn’t want to be part of it. With this new knowledge, I knew we could make a difference simply with the way we do business at Lula’s. So we began to look hard into the coffees and chocolate that we sourced and we led out by being a voice for anti-human trafficking. That was all we knew to do. Being a voice in your community doesn’t mean you have it all figured out, sometimes it just means that people can follow you while you start moving in the right direction.
Recently, Nestle publicly admitted slavery in their coffee supply chain, confirming that it bought coffee from two plantations in Brazil where workers were rescued from forced labor last summer. In a large corporation like Nestle where the supply chain is long and confusing, I imagine that it’s hard to maintain knowing where all of their products are coming from...but it's not impossible. Other companies make very concentrated efforts to keep their supply chains clean of human suffering. It’s these companies that need our support. Sometimes you have to dig and do a little homework, but it’s so worth it.
Choose somewhere to start, choose one thing - chocolate is a great one. Decide that you are not going to buy chocolate from anyone that isn’t transparent about their sourcing. That’s it. If you can master that, then pick something else and go from there! There are companies out there who value humanity over the dollar, don’t overlook them just because it may be inconvenient. If you are purchasing from The Mail Room Barber, that’s a great start! Keep buying from Rob - his commitment to ensuring clarity along his own supply chain is unmatched by anyone else I know, all the way down to the boxes he ships his products in!
And look, if you have any questions about whether a company values ethical sourcing or not, ask. The internet is a wonderful tool and most people are willing to answer your questions. It’s ok to trust companies, just make sure that who you’re trusting is trustworthy. When you find those companies, give them your business!
By Jeff Felten
Check out Jeff's company Batch Nine Coffee and buy a bag of their incredible coffee to support the fight for quality and ethics!