Starbucks is expanding its three-year-old Small Farmer Sustainability Initiative (SFSI) by partnering with the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO) and TransFair USA to create a small-scale coffee farmer–loan program.

The program, which intends to grow to $20 million by 2015, is meant to increase market access for farmers, provide loans and technical assistance, and offer a unified audit system.

Small-scale coffee farmers will have access to the $12.5 million Starbucks has already invested through various social investment organizations like Root Capital, Verde Ventures, and Calvert.

“Eighty-five percent of Starbucks coffee is grown on family farms with less than 12 hectares of land,” says Dub Hay, senior vice president of coffee and tea for Starbucks.

“So increasing their access to affordable loans and technical support will help them not only survive the current global economic crisis but will help them emerge as stronger business partners for the future.”

The coffee quick-serve hopes the program will enable farmers to increase their incomes, improve their families’ livelihoods, and promote sustainable community development.

Paul Rice, president and CEO of TransFair USA, says Starbucks’ efforts show “tremendous leadership.”

“The results of this program will help send kids to school, bring clean water to farming communities, and enable struggling farmers to put food on the table,” Rice says.

“Working together, Starbucks and Fair Trade Certified empower consumers to make ethical decisions about the coffee they drink, and support the farmers that produce it.”

In addition to the loan program, FLO and Starbucks plan to develop a single audit system for farmers applying for both Fairtrade certification and Starbucks Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices verification.

As a component of the SFSI, Starbucks will also analyze green-coffee samples from Fair Trade Certified cooperatives to improve quality and in turn earn higher profits for the farmers.

–Blair Chancey

Finance, News, Starbucks