Sustainable Harvest and Alta Gracia are making the supply chain ethical.
Making international supply chains work is a tricky business. Besides the inevitable bridging of cultures and the logistical challenges of getting your product from here to there, companies have to navigate a world of ethical quandaries to ensure they’re treating their workers right and creating sustainable economic systems. These two GOOD Company finalists are among the best firms at navigating this tricky problem.
Sustainable Harvest, a coffee importer founded in 1997, is a social enterprise competing with the largest multinational coffee traders. They're doing it with the interest of growers in mind, reinvesting 60 percent of operating income in training for farmers in sustainable and profitable agricultural techniques. In 2010, the company saw $34 million in sales to roasters around the world, and expects to reach $40 million next year. Sustainable Harvest is also are pushing back against the trend of coffee buyers playing their cards close to the chest to deny growers any knowledge that could give them a negotiating advantage: The company seeks to provide growers an equal playing field with traders. Rather than try to change the business of coffee from the outside, Sustainable Harvest is shifting trends from inside the industry.
It’s a predictable story: Activist college students get wind that their alma mater’s t-shirts, hoodies and other swag are being made in sweatshops; the students protest; and a chagrined university vows to source elsewhere. That’s where Alta Gracia comes in. The apparel company makes shirts for Georgetown, Dartmouth and Brandeis, but pays a living wage to all of the workers in its Dominican Republic factory, which is monitored by independent observers. The company is banking on the idea that it can make decent working conditions a brand advantage in the marketplace. So far, so good: The company is now more than a year old, and the number of schools carrying its merchandise has grown from 250 to 400.\n
These GOOD Company finalists are doing their best to solve the new problems of the global economy the old fashioned way: By jumping into the fray and making change themselves.