Our tastebuds and our health motivate us to take an interest in where our food comes from, but do we think about the broader implications of our food choices? Do we think about a product’s carbon footprint or its impact on the community where it’s made?
The duo behind the rapidly expanding coconut water company Harmless Harvest does. From sourcing to bottling, they’ve made it their mission to effect positive change along the entire length of their production chain. And they should: We may benefit from eating organic but what lies along that food supply chain? What goes on behind closed doors in the food and beverage industries, organic or not, would surprise even the conscious consumer. “We have come face-to-face with the hard reality of how many products are made” say Harmless Harvest founders, Douglas Riboud & Justin Guilbert.
In Thailand, for instance, where Harmless Harvest sources its coconuts, farms often confiscate the passports of foreign workers to prevent them from leaving in search of better pay and working conditions. Although illegal, this practice is commonplace throughout the world — including the U.S. Coconut farm workers can sometimes make little more than $78 dollars…a year.
As the only Fair for Life beverage company in the country, Harmless Harvest, whose ethos is founded upon change-seeking constructive initiatives, has been meticulous about building a business that benefits both fair trade and the environment. “Through our partnership with Fair for Life [a fair trade certification organization], we look for solutions that address the root of the problem, as well as the problem itself.” Justin and Doug work hard to ensure their company adheres to strict rules that ensure safe, decent working conditions for farmers. “We will not do business with an entity that has cut corners at the expense of its workers or the environment.” Each farm is pre-inspected before entering their certification program for adherence to organic and Fair for Life principles. The pair meets with each farmer and interviews his staff. This not only allows Justin and Doug to make sure foreign workers aren’t taken advantage of, but also affords a chance to explain, teach, and train the farmers or address any concerns they might have. By meeting with farmers directly, the company is able to ensure its partners abide by Fair for Life principles.
“Harmless Harvest’s commitment to fair trade practices is evident throughout their supply chain. Offering stable, fair wages to farmers, directly employing the people who manufacture their product, establishing a safe environment with fair wages and benefits for all employees, and utilizing a fair trade premium that goes towards social initiatives in local communities embody the Fair for Life ethos,” explains Fair for Life representative Kerry Hughes.
“In 2013, we took an important step by building a facility in the heart of our coconut farmland. This location allows us to oversee vital steps in our production cycle and adds value to the area by developing employment opportunities for the surrounding community.” The company’s continued growth allows for the ownership and control of more and more of the production process and, in turn, close and careful management. Harmless Harvest’s success will hopefully show other companies that a commitment to social and environmental good leads to better a quality product and a better bottom line.