Sweetwater Organic Coffee Company is a proud member of Cooperative Coffees (CC), which is a green coffee importing cooperative committed to supporting and partnering with small-scale farmer organizations throughout the world. CC is currently composed of 23 Fair Trade coffee roasters located in different cities across Canada and the U.S.A. Originally, a few roasters building their businesses upon the ideals of alternative trade came together to form CC as a buying cooperative. Because of the volumes they needed as small-scale roasters, individually it was impossible to import directly from a variety of coffee farmer cooperatives. The financial and logistical hurdles were too great. But working collectively, the roasters of Cooperative Coffees established direct Fair Trade relationships with over 20 coffee cooperatives from fourteen different producer countries. Roaster members stretch from Rhode Island to Washington State, and from the Northern Territory of the Yukon, Canada down to Florida. Some are roaster-retailers, others are roaster-wholesalers, but all are small-sized community-minded operations that are committed to selling sustainable fair trade coffees. Like any non-profit co-op, CC has volunteer officers, a board of directors and a number of working committees.
The Cooperative itself boasts a small but effective staff. We also have several member working committees to oversee critical aspects of the coop’s day to day functions. These include: Finance, Membership, Green Bean Procurement, and an Executive Committee. The Finance Committee approves spending and looks for ways to raise capital and qualify for loans so we can purchase more great coffee. The Membership Committee handles issues concerning new membership, membership policies and services, and the planning of the Annual General Meeting of Members. The Green Bean Committee is charged with overseeing quality issues, analyzing the terms of our purchase contracts, reviewing the quantity of coffee needed by our roaster-members, and evaluating our needs and capacity to establish relationships with potential new producer partners. The Executive Committee along with the Board of Directors oversees the work of the cooperative's staff and committees.
The farmer cooperatives with whom CC partners are democratically managed and work towards sustainable development in their communities, as well as towards producing and delivering exceptional specialty coffee. Some of our trading partner co-ops have exported directly to the specialty market for many years; others have a long history of production but are new to direct exportation of their coffee. Our importing cooperative is committed to helping these farming co-ops participate directly in and benefit from the world of international trade.
Organizations such as TransFair USA (now calling themselves Fair Trade USA) promote more equitable terms of trade. However, our intentions as Fair Trade coffee roasters go beyond the simple act of buying and selling excellent quality coffees for a fair price. We strive to take the direct trade model a step further, striving to be an active partner in the producer cooperatives’ development and growth by visiting the grower organizations in the field, listening to their needs, getting to know their context and communities, and understanding how Fair Trade -- and more specifically, the direct relationship with Coop Coffees -- can improve their livelihoods and create a mutually beneficial and long-term partnership.