Dean’s Beans and the Business of Fair Trade | Connecting Point | Oct. 7, 2019


>>>IN 1994 DEAN CYCON HAD A
HYPOTHESIS – THAT A BUSINESS COULD BE BOTH FOR-PROFIT AND
CREATE MEANINGFUL CHANGE FOR INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN ASIA,
AFRICA AND THE AMERICAS. HE
LAUNCHED DEAN’S BEANS ORGANIC COFFEE TO TEST HIS THEORY, AND
WE SPOKE ABOUT THE LOCAL COMPANY’S, NOW AWARD WINNING,
APPROACH IN THE STUDIO.>>OKAY. FIRST OFF, I DON’T CONSIDER US A
FAIR TRADE COMPANY. FAIR TRADE IS A TOOL IN OUR
TOOLBOX OF SOCIAL SECURITY JUSTICE AND ENVIRONMENTAL
JUSTICE BECAUSE AT THIS POINT IN THE EVOLUTION OF COFFEE, ANYBODY
CAN BUY FAIR TRADE COFFEE FROM A BROKER WITHOUT HAVING ANY
RELATIONSHIP TO THE FARMERS, WITHOUT TAKING A DENT OUT OF THE
UNFAIR WORLD OF COFFEE AND SO FOR US FAIR TRADE IS A VERY,
VERY IMPORTANT THAT’LL 100% FAIR TRADE BUT TO US IT’S JUST A
TOOL. WHY WE USE IT IS BECAUSE IT’S
THE ONLY SYSTEM THAT ACTUALLY SETS A MINIMUM PRICE THAT THE
FARMERS CAN LIVE WITH DURING THE BAD TIMES, SUCH AS NOW. IT COST A FARMER SOMEWHERE $1 TO
2 DAYS DEPENDING WHERE — $2 DEPENDING WHERE THEY ARE TO GROW
AND PROCESS THEIR COFFEE BUT RIGHT NOW THE WORLD COFFEE PRICE
THAT THEY GET BACK IS $1 OR LESS. WHICH MEANS EVERY CUP YOU DRINK,
EVERY POUND YOU BUY OF COMMERCIAL COFFEE DRIVES A FARM
FAMILY FURTHER INTO POVERTY, WHICH MEANS MANY LOSE THEIR LAND
AND COME UP AGAINST OUR SOUTHERN BORDER AND THAT’S ONE OF THE
CAUSES OF MASS MIGRATION COMING OUT ESPECIALLY GRADUATE MALLA.>>HOW DOES THE AVERAGE CONSUMER
DISTINGUISH THAT VERY NUANCED DIFFERENCE THAT YOU JUST POINTED
OUT?>>WELL, IT’S GREAT TO START
WITH THE FAIR TRADE LABEL AND THE ORGANIC LABEL. THERE YOU KNOW THAT THE
ENVIRONMENT IS BEING TAKEN CARE OF FROM A LEGAL POINT OF VIEW,
NOT JUST COMMERCIAL MARKETING AND ALSO THAT THE FARMERS ARE
GETTING THIS MINIMUM PRICE AT THIS VERY DESPERATE TIME WHICH
ALLOWS THEM TO HOLD ON TO THEIR LANDS AND FEED THEIR FAMILIES. SO THAT’S A GOOD PLACE TO START
BUT FOR CONSUMERS WHO WANT TO GO A LITTLE DEEPER — AND IT’S HARD
THESE DAYS AND I APPRECIATE THAT, YOU HAVE TO STUDY THE
COMPANIES THAT YOU WANT TO SUPPORT. AND THESE DAYS WITH CLIMATE
CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL REFUGEES AND SOCIAL DISPLACEMENT
ALL OVER THE WORLD, I THINK IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO
DIG DEEPER INTO THEIR BUYING PATTERNS.>>FOR YOU STARTED THIS 25, 26
YEARS AGO WITH A PREMISE THAT THE GREENFIELD RECORDER POINTED
OUT AND I WANT TO READ IT. THE HYPOTHESIS THAT A BUSINESS
COULD BE BOTH FOR PROFIT AND CREATE, QUOTE, MEANINGFUL CHANGE
FOR THE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN ASIA, AFRICA AND THE AMERICA.>>RIGHT.>>AS THE RECORDER POINTED OUT
THAT’S A HYPOTHESIS. SO HOW DID YOU TEST THAT
HYPOTHESIS?>>THAT’S A GREAT QUESTION. WHEN I FIRST STARTED THERE WAS
NO SUCH THING AS A SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR OR A COMPANY, 100%
ORGANIC AND THERE WAS NO FAIR TRADE SO WHEN WE STARTED, IT WAS
BASED ON MY BACKGROUND AS AN INDIGENOUS RIGHTS AND
ENVIRONMENTAL WRITER IN THE ’70s AND ’80s AND THEN STARTING
NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS TO DO DEVELOPMENT WORK FIRST, TO DO
DEVELOPMENT WORK IN COFFEE. SO IT REALLY WAS A HYPOTHESIS. AND I KNEW THAT AND IT WAS AN
EXPERIMENT AND IF IT DIDN’T WORK, I GUESS I’D GO BACK TO
BEING A LAWYER AND TEACHING PART-TIME AT UMASS. BUT 25 YEARS LATER, 26 YEARS
LATER, WE CAN POINT TO WHAT WE’VE DONE AND SHOW FROM A
METRICS POINT OF VIEW FOR THOSE WHO CARE ABOUT THOSE
THINGS — WE CAN SHOW INCREASE IN INCOME WITH THE FARMERS THAT
WE WORK WITH, INCREASE IN HEALTH, INCREASE IN WOMEN’S
LOANS AND WOMEN’S BUSINESSES, DECREASE IN DEBTS FROM CERVICAL
CANCER IN ETHIOPIA WHERE WE HAVE A MAKING ANY SENT PROGRAM. WE CAN SHOW ON THE GROUND AS A
BUSINESS MODEL AND OTHERS DOING SIMILAR THINGS HAVE A REAL
MEANINGFUL IMPACT ON THE GROUND AND THAT PROVES THE HYPOTHESIS.>>I THINK THERE’S BEEN SOME
CRITICISM OF PEOPLE WHO MAYBE NOT LIKE YOU BUT PEOPLE WHO ARE
WORKING IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES OR INDIGENOUS COUNTRIES WITH
INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS GOING IN TO DO GOOD WORK.>>YOU’RE NOT KIDDING. I’M ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO
COMPLAINS ABOUT IF ALL THE TIME.>>AGAIN FOR THE CONSUMER WHO’S
LOOKING AT THIS, HOW DO YOU FERBET OUT FACT FROM — FERRET
OUT FACT FROM FICTION THERE.>>AGAIN, IT’S EDUCATIONAL. IF YOU’RE GOING TO GET INVOLVED
IN TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES OF DEVELOPMENT, THAT’S A
WHOLE WORLD IN AND OF ITSELF. DEVELOPMENT, INTERNATIONAL
DEVELOPMENT, NOW IS BASED OR THESE LARGE ORGANIZATIONS FROM
THE NORTH GOING IN WITH THEIR PROGRAMS, THEIR PRIORITIES AND
THEIR TONS OF MONEY AND BASICALLY TELLING COMMUNITIES
WHAT THEY WANT TO ACCOMPLISH. THAT DOESN’T WORK. IT’S BEEN PROVEN NOT TO WORK,
AND SO THERE’S BEEN A SHIFT AND WE’RE PART OF THE PIONEERS IN
THAT SHIFT IN ASKING THE PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, WHAT ARE THE MAJOR
INHIPICKS TO DEVELOP — INHIBITIONS TO DEVELOP HERE AND
WORKING TO TRY TO FIND SOLUTIONS TO INDIVIDUAL PROGRAMS, DESIGN
PROGRAMS AND THEN IN OUR CASE — THE UNIQUE THING THAT WE DO IS
WE TRAIN THE FARMERS TO RUN THE PROGRAMS, SO IT’S NOT CARE
C.A.R.E., OR SAVE THE CHILDREN CREATING HIGH ARCA ON TOP OF
ALREADY DOWNTRODDEN PEOPLE. IT’S A WAY TO BRING SELF-ESTEEM
AND EMPOWERMENT TO THOSE COMMUNITIES.>>SO WHAT’S ONE EXAMPLE THAT
YOU CAN POINT TO OF AN ISSUE OR A CHALLENGE THAT YOU LEARNED
FROM A POPULATION AND THEN WERE ABLE TO WORK WITH THEM ON?>>, HMMM, RIGHT FROM THE VERY
BEGINNING WE WERE ASKED BY — WE HAD MEETINGS WITH DIFFERENT
WOMEN’S GROUPS IN THE AREA WE WERE WORKING WITH IN GUATEMALA
AND MOST OF THE WOMEN SAID WE HAVE NO HEALTHCARE HERE. THE NEAREST DOCTORS 15 MILES
AWAY AND WE DON’T HAVE CARS AND SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT? AND WE GOT TOGETHER WITH A
DOCTOR GROUP THAT WAS GOING TO PROVIDE BASIC PRIMARY CARE
TRAINING FOR THE WOMEN SO THEY CAN ANALYZE THEIR OWN MATERNAL
ISSUES, YOU KNOW, SET A BROKEN LIMB, KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH
MEDICINE, YOU KNOW, IT WAS REALLY STAGGERING WONDERFUL
PROGRAM BUT WHAT WAS UNIQUE ABOUT IT, IS IT DIDN’T RELY ON
US BECAUSE WE COMBINED IT WITH THE WOMEN’S LOAN FUND SO THAT
EVERY WOMAN WHO GOT HEALTHCARE TRAINING ALSO RECEIVED A LOAN TO
START OR INCREASE HER FAMILY’S BUSINESS. WITH THE INTERESTS THAT THEY
PAID BACK TO A LOAN INSTEAD OF GOING TO SOME NORTHERN
ORGANIZATION AS THESE LOAN FUNDS DOBBS THE FUND — THE FUND
COLLECTED THE INTEREST AND USED TO PAY THE ADMINISTRATIVE COST
OF THE HEALTHCARE PROGRAM SO AFTER 4 YEARS, IT WAS
SELF-FUNDING. IT WAS THE WORLD’S SELF-FUNDING
WOMEN’S HEALTHCARE PROGRAM AND WE GOT AN AWARD FROM THE
UNITED NATIONS FROM UN WOMEN THE FIRST THEY EVER GAVE WAS FOR A
COMMUNITY PROGRAM FROM GUATEMALA.>>YOU MENTIONED THE WORD AWARD. WHICH IS WHY WE ARE HAVING SOME
OF THESE CONVERSATIONS AND YOU EARNED AN AWARD, BEST FOR THE
WORLD AWARD AND IT’S A RECOGNITION OF YOUR COMPANY’S
POSITIVE IMPACT ON COMMUNITIES AND COFFEE FARMERS AROUND THE
WORLD. WHEN YOU WIN AN AWARD LIKE THIS
OR THE NUMEROUS YOU’VE WON, WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU AS A
COMPANY?>>IT MEANS THAT THE WORK THAT
WE DO IN THE WORLD IS GETTING RECOGNIZED SOMEWHERE. I DON’T SPEND A LOT OF MONEY
MARKETING SO I CAN WALK DOWN THE TREAT OF AMHERST WHERE I’M FROM
AND NOBODY KNOWS WHO I AM. I CAN GO INTO A COFFEE DO YOU
HAVE DEAN’S BEANS COFFEE AND THEY’LL SAY, NEVER HEARD IT. RIGHT IN MY OWN COMMUNITY BUT IF
YOU GO TO ANY OF THESE COFFEE COUNTRIES WE WORK IN, WE’RE
KNOWN AND WE’RE RESPECTED OR IF YOU GO TO OSLO OR MUMBAI OR ANY
PLACE ELSE WE’VE GOTTEN MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AWARDS, THEY KNOW
WHO WE ARE. THE MORE IMPORTANT THING FOR ME
THE PROGRAM WORKS. IT WORKS WELL AND THAT IS
GETTING RECOGNIZED IN THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY AROUND THE
WORLD AS WELL AS BY THE FARMERS BECAUSE FOR THE BUSINESS
COMMUNITY TO RECOGNIZE, IT MEANS OTHER PEOPLE GO, HUH? WOW! THIS CAN WORK. MAYBE WE CAN STOP BEING JUST
ABOUT PROFIT AND BRINGING COMMUNITY CONCERNS AND
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS INTO WHAT WE DO AND STILL BE PROFITABLE. YES, YES, YES WE’VE PROVEN THAT. FROM THE FARMERS POINT OF VIEW
THEY’RE THRILLED ABOUT IT BECAUSE THEY’RE PART OF IT. YOU KNOW, LIKE I SAID, WE DON’T
CREATE HIERARCHY’S OVER THE FARMERS. I ALWAYS POINT OUT WHEN I GET
THESE AWARDS, IT’S THEIR SUCCESS AND, YOU KNOW, THAT’S EXCITING
FOR PEOPLE WHO REALLY DON’T HAVE MUCH IN THEIR LIFE AND LIVE ON
COFFEE, YOU KNOW, WHICH DIDN’T BRING THEM MUCH MONEY.

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