April 4th, 2011
02:39 PM ET

Profit at the expense of good business?

By Carmen K. Iezzi, Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Since 2006, Carmen K. Iezzi has served as executive director of the Fair Trade Federation, a trade association based in Washington, D.C., that supports North American organizations committed to fair trade.

At what expense do we maximize profits?

At the cost of children's lives?

At the cost of the planet's resources?

At the cost of good business sense?

CEOs, you may tell us that in order to maximize profit for your shareholders, you must turn to cheap, even child, labor. Yet, these practices come at the expense of good business sense, on top of the clear social, moral, and environmental costs.

Exploitation hampers productivity
While it may seem beneficial in the short term, the constant pursuit of the cheapest workers for the meagerest wages in the lowliest conditions results in individuals producing your products with the most limited skill sets and lowest efficiency.

Companies may claim that the behavior of suppliers down the chain is not their concern. Yet, their own profitability and sustainability depends on the ways in which these suppliers treat workers. As Rodney North of Equal Exchange, the oldest and largest for-profit Fair Trade company in the United States, explains, when companies "squeeze their laborers, who in turn work under duress without rest or any support to work better and smarter... they have incentive to 'give as they get' e.g.. cut their own corners, slack off, etc."

When companies move away from exploitative practices and invest in capacity building, though, they enhance one of their main assets: the people behind the products. They support workers who can generate creative solutions, identify greater efficiencies, and mitigate risk, thus improving the bottom line. Ending such practices even enhances productivity. World Bank research in Africa shows that addressing a challenge like structural gender inequality can increase agricultural yields by more than 20%; and, "in 2001, the United Nations reported that eliminating gender inequality in Latin America would increase national output by 5%."

No matter where in the supply chain your company falls, your business' position improves when you move away from exploitative labor towards respectful treatment and capacity building throughout the supply chain.

Transparency builds loyalty
Numerous studies show the benefits of customer loyalty – –in cost savings, in word of mouth marketing, in time and effort. Loyalty comes from customers believing in your credibility, feeling engaged to a larger community, and experiencing a sense of personal connectivity with you and your work.

Cooperative Coffees, a green coffee importing cooperative of 22 roasters in Canada and the USA, builds sustainable trading relationships for the benefit of farmers and communities. To further its relationships, it launched FairTradeProof.org in 2009, a website where consumers can track their coffee from the crop to their cup by following the transactions between farmer cooperatives and roasters affiliated with Cooperative Coffees. The site names each producer organization and allows consumers to see copies of contracts, and invoices, as well as background information about the cooperatives and their communities.

Since the site's launch, more than 94,000 unique visitors have explored their coffee supply chain. Sharing these documents builds credibility behind the claims that Cooperative Coffee makes about the treatment of producers and engages customers in a process greater than simply consuming coffee.

"We hear repeatedly that customers value the transparency we offer," says Anna Canning of Peace Coffee, a fully Fair Trade coffee roaster in Minneapolis, Minnesota and member of Cooperative Coffees. "People become passionate Peace Coffee drinkers for a variety of reasons – firstly because it tastes so good, and secondly because they feel that they can trust us, because of the open and honest way that we do business through tools like Fair Trade Proof."

Tripp Pomeroy of Café Campesino, a fully Fair Trade coffee roaster and Cooperative Coffees member in Americus, Georgia, agrees. "In an age of so much spin and green-washing," he says, "FairTradeProof.org shows our customers the value in supporting our company [over others]. Customers can judge for themselves and choose to support us, because we show that farmers really are getting a fair deal."

Building loyalty through transparency binds your customers to your producer partners and – thereby – to your business. Customers come back, because they clearly recognize their role in the larger supply chain and tie their choices to the well-being of the farmers.

Companies are succeeding by recognizing the practical ways in which investing in responsible behavior grows their business. Ending exploitation and increasing transparency can deliver greater returns for your business, too.

soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. allfaith

    This is the way of the future. Those who act with morality, and can show it will soon be the majority. Unfortunately, the nature of our economic system is in need of an overhaul. No consideration is being given to the incredible waste in our system. We over-produce throw away items while depleting scarce resources that cannot be replaced.
    The illusion of economic growth is merely a tool to more quickly move the wealth of the world into the hands of the few. Sustainable economies that involve locally produced food and power would not only provide work for local workers, but also instill a heretofore lacking sense of community that could be assimilated the world over.
    Please keep giving the world your message. Remember, to tell everyone that disparity and insurmountable poverty are the primary causes of the violence that plagues our world. What's good for the economy is not always good for the country, or the world.

    April 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • JosieLito

      I hope you are right, allfaith. I get really scared sometimes (often, actually) when I read or watch the news. To me, it doesn't at all look like good is going to triumph over evil. It looks like corporations and the very wealthy will triumph while the rest of us become serfs, assuming we survive. I'm pray that I am wrong and you are right.

      April 5, 2011 at 6:56 am | Reply
  2. Eric

    You guys are missing the biggest area I ever heard of for sex and slavery where Americans Brits and others own bars that sell girls for $12 to $30 for a night to any guy that pays why don't you report in full in full detail on Angeles City Philippines the largest Sex playground anywhere check the web all the information and pictures are there

    April 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  3. mike Ly

    Fack the Thai. They are not humans. Let them all die of aids!

    April 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Reply
  4. tai

    mike Ly.....Fack your mama too...

    April 5, 2011 at 1:13 am | Reply
  5. rusty cy

    This is no diffrent than the united states making people on foodstamps work for 40 cents an hour for thier checks and foodstamps. So why does,nt cnn check right here at home for modern day slavery? Check out the hours a person on welfare and foodstamps has to work just to get by or to put food on the table for thier family,s the states are useing these people and these people,s faith in america is shrinking quickly. I am talking about people who use to work but can,t find a job in todays market not lifetime welfarers ones that paid the dues when they did work just to be slapped in the face when they themselfs needed the help. Don,t look overseas my friends look in your own backyards you will find it.

    April 5, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
  6. Levi

    I'm an employee of one of the roasters referenced in the above article.

    Thanks to these guys, a college student has a fun, decent-paying job in an economy where the existence of a job is in itself a difficult concept. I'm learning a lot about management, fair trade, ethical business and customer support. I'm a barista, the end of the trading chain. From farmer, to cooperative, to roastery, to coffeehouse, you've got to love being able to say you're part of something good.

    April 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  7. Fowardblue

    Could you imagine if all the money that went to war this month was used to fight slavery here in the USA. This is a disgrace we fought a civil war over slavery/other issues. I am proud of CNN and orgs. like CAST. I support the end of slavery. I have worked with many of the children who were taken away or thrown away by the slave traders.

    April 6, 2011 at 3:42 am | Reply
  8. enkico

    This article is a bit too bubbly to reflect the reality of the markets. While I'm in agreement with the lock that large businesses who don't care about people or environment have on markets, it is the consumer – ever pressured with the bad economy and inflation – who patronizes them and validates their business practices. As an owner of a company committed to conscious business practices that provides cloud computing, what I see is that our customers appreciate our commitment to equality, fairness, and environmental concerns, but that it doesn't affect their decision to buy when they are searching for a cloud provider, where they are primarily shopping on price. When business returns to a personal relationship with customers, sustainability becomes an advantage – as in the cafes mentioned in the article. But as long as the customer buys on the web or over the phone, the pressure on the business to cut corners on all aspects is too great and perpetuates the current system.

    April 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  9. sdorttuiiplmnr

    Hello my family member! I want to say that this article is awesome, great written and include approximately all important infos. I’d like to see extra posts like this .


    August 23, 2015 at 5:04 am | Reply
  10. Terri Yeend

    kitchen remodel portland


    September 29, 2016 at 9:38 am | Reply
  11. Yvonne Nicolaides

    Great – I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs as well as related info ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, web site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Excellent task..


    September 29, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  12. veste femme ralph lauren

    CHELSEA?are the latest club to join the race for Falkirk defender Tony Gallacher.
    veste femme ralph lauren http://pl.aasoldes.fr/Ralph-Lauren-veste-mode-femmes-silver-Veste-Femme-Ralph-Lauren-TE2324.html

    September 4, 2017 at 8:03 am | Reply
  13. KbrgGafe

    sildenafil citrate 50mg tab cost of viagra in us 2 sildenafil

    November 24, 2020 at 5:20 am | Reply
  14. Fnrhcoemn

    viagra for sale on line gneeric viagra online how to buy viagra no prescription

    November 24, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  15. Fdbvephes

    price viagra generic sildenafil 25 mg daily where to buy viagra with paypal

    November 24, 2020 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  16. Dbsfephes

    viagra 300mg price buying viagra in canada viagra generic online cheapest

    November 26, 2020 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  17. Fbsbcoemn

    www anagen net viagra htm bula viagra anvisa pelicula de la historia del viagra

    November 27, 2020 at 12:58 am | Reply
  18. Jsweguell

    sildenafil 50mg tablets coupon price of viagra 100mg in india online pharmacy viagra usa

    November 27, 2020 at 8:10 am | Reply
  19. Fmsgcoemn

    taking xanax with viagra musli viagra il viagra dei poveri

    November 28, 2020 at 6:15 am | Reply
  20. KwgdGafe

    critical thinking essay country research paper online essay writing services

    November 29, 2020 at 10:48 am | Reply
  21. Fgsephes

    us history homework help marketing dissertation essays about homework

    November 30, 2020 at 2:01 am | Reply
  22. Ftghcoemn

    organic chemistry homework help write my paper for me materials and methods in research paper

    November 30, 2020 at 8:35 am | Reply
  23. Narcisa Doudna

    El Just in Time, obliga y condiciona a la industria auxiliar y a las empresas de transporte, de disponer de almacenes propios alquilados de logística, almacenaje y distribución para dar un servicio rápido y evitar el paro de los procesos productivos en la industria en general.


    November 30, 2020 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  24. Fnsbcoemn

    good authors to write research paper on homework writing help art of essay writing

    December 1, 2020 at 2:25 am | Reply
  25. Son Fraleigh

    Nota común a la Agrupación 43.- Cuando los sujetos pasivos realicen las actividades comprendidas en esta Agrupación, exclusivamente, para terceros y por encargo, con un número de obreros inferior a 10, la cuota será el 25 de la asignada a la rúbrica correspondiente; si el número de obreros fuera superior a 9 e inferior a 25, la cuota será el 50 de la asignada a la rúbrica correspondiente.


    December 1, 2020 at 7:05 am | Reply
  26. Fnrdcoemn

    viagra buy how much is viagra at walmart viagra tijuana mx

    December 1, 2020 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  27. Dvscephes

    school personal statement essay help online flemish giants the proper way to write an essay

    December 1, 2020 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  28. Fqfcoemn

    research paper books custom essay writing proquest dissertations

    December 2, 2020 at 9:04 am | Reply
  29. Fsfcoemn

    narrative essay analysis essay 26 paper term

    December 2, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  30. Jgscguell

    write research paper buy essay online for cheap help me write an essay for a scholarship

    December 2, 2020 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  31. Fgnsephes

    cialis buy online canada cialis pills online back pain from cialis

    December 9, 2020 at 11:39 pm | Reply
  32. detectives privados en pozuelo

    detectives privados ponferrada


    December 10, 2020 at 9:22 am | Reply
  33. Fbsbcoemn

    36 hour cialis cialis for sale in canada cialis dosage recommended

    December 10, 2020 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  34. KhedGafe

    geneic viagra mixing cocaine and viagra shipping viagra to australia

    December 10, 2020 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  35. Dvncephes

    cialis pills canada cialisВ® cialis onlilne

    December 11, 2020 at 11:46 am | Reply
  36. Fgrscoemn

    viagra online bestellen org free viagra generic viagra with dapoxetine 160mg

    December 11, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  37. Fqbfcoemn

    acs cialis cialis australia online stores cialis online canadian pharmacy

    December 12, 2020 at 7:43 pm | Reply
  38. Fsfgcoemn

    buying viagra in bali how much is viagra in tuajuana with a prescription viagra off patent

    December 13, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  39. Jgsvguell

    red viagra purchase viagra online canada professional viagra

    December 14, 2020 at 9:32 am | Reply
  40. Fhsnephes

    how to buy viagra 4 pack viagra viagra australia net

    December 14, 2020 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  41. bitcoin to paypal

    Transfer from bitcoin to paypal very fast and low cost.


    December 15, 2020 at 7:35 pm | Reply
  42. Dvnjephes

    generisches viagra paypal generic viagra paypal how much does viagra cost with a prescription

    December 16, 2020 at 10:33 am | Reply
  43. Everett Kiffer

    Como empresa de mecanizado por arranque de viruta, ponemos a su disposición un taller de mecanizado con un amplio parque de maquinaria CNC, capaz de atender fabricaciones en serie de componentes mecánicos de alta complejidad y elevada precisión. Please note that later changes to the program settings affect the entire machining program, and can therefore change the machining procedure significantly.


    December 20, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Reply
  44. Issac Lese

    If you happen to excited about eco items, sometimes be tough shock to anyone them recognise that to help make unique baskets just for this quite liquids carry basic steps liters associated ceiling fan oil producing. dc free mommy blog giveaways family trip home gardening house power wash baby laundry detergent


    December 20, 2020 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  45. zortilonrel

    I like what you guys are up too. Such smart work and reporting! Carry on the excellent works guys I've incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it'll improve the value of my site :).


    December 22, 2020 at 8:56 am | Reply
  46. Bobbie Nicklous

    Thanks so much the information. I love sucking dick btw hmu


    January 3, 2021 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  47. Tyree Okray

    Interested in more information. How can I contact you?


    January 5, 2021 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  48. Aqwscoemn

    pharmacy online drugstore best erectile dysfunction pills pharmacy rx one

    January 8, 2021 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  49. Jtmfcoemn

    global pharmacy canada my canadian pharmacy rx express pharmacy

    January 9, 2021 at 3:29 am | Reply
  50. Fgvdephes

    e d specialty pharmacy pharmacy prices

    January 9, 2021 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  51. Lokucoemn

    best ed pills best ed pills ed drugs

    January 10, 2021 at 5:40 am | Reply
  52. Nllpephes

    best drug store primer http://pharmacy-onlineasxs.com/ ed meds

    January 10, 2021 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  53. Violette Ryu

    This will be the right weblog for everyone who is hopes to learn about this topic. You are aware of a great deal its nearly tough to argue to you (not too I personally would want…HaHa). You definitely put a different spin using a topic thats been discussed for decades. Excellent stuff, just excellent!


    January 12, 2021 at 12:40 am | Reply
  54. Jlloguell

    the peoples pharmacy ed pills online pharmacy rx one reviews

    January 12, 2021 at 11:27 pm | Reply
  55. Fgnhephes

    buy viagra in canada viagra on line without prescription viagra in tokyo when does viagra patent expire cheap viagra discount viagra free shipping on all order buy viagra canada viagra 4free viagra sales online australia viagra for sale paypal viagra 50 pills where to get generic viagra viagra 800 mg ggeneric viagra for sale 365 pills viagra cialis professional

    January 13, 2021 at 9:56 pm | Reply
  56. Nlbxephes

    viagra online from india viagra pay pal professional viagra buy pfizer viagra cheap viagra pills online viagra for sal female viagra australia viagra sales austra where to buy viagra over the counter what is viagra gold viagra online hong kong nz viagra viagra price in india viagragold how to make viagra

    January 14, 2021 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  57. Tora Reschke

    Interested in more information. How can I contact you?


    January 15, 2021 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  58. Aqbvcoemn

    viagra price walmart viagra surgery cheap viagra for sale http://acialaarx.com/ – australian viagra paypal ’

    January 18, 2021 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  59. Douglass Seats

    When some one searches for his required thing, therefore he/she wants to be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.


    January 18, 2021 at 1:20 pm | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.