Fair Apostasy and Direct Purchasing

Dany Marquis

It's decided. I am no longer “fair”. The very word makes me uncomfortable, and has for a while now. In concrete terms, I have terminated my contract with Transfair Canada and will no longer work with the certification body. So, that I will be decertified fair.

Today, I sincerely believe that we could do better, differently. The notions of fairness and justice are part of my personal values ​​and therefore shade Brûlerie du Quai. The use of the logo and the partnership with Transfair Canada is now, in my eyes, a relationship based on the use of a trademark among many others (Utz, max haavelar, rainforest alliance, bird friendly, shade grown) not to mention the organic side where we get lost among the numerous certification bodies.

In Quebec, the influence of Équiterre and its charming spokesperson at the time inspired me during the start-up of the company. The ideas conveyed by Laure Waridell touched me, as did reading the book “buying is voting”. I always hope to continue on the same path of responsibility and desire to improve the world around me. Over the last 6 years, I have brought my projects to fruition and strived towards an ideal. With experience and my knowledge of today's coffee business, I realize the naivety of the process. Who really wins from this exercise? Answering this question is to update the “merchants of good conscience”. (I invite you on this subject to read the book by Christian Jacquiau, “Behind the scenes of fair trade” published by Mille et une nuits) It is also enough to have traveled and visited coffee producing countries to realize that the functioning of This is all much more complicated. My disappointment has no precise target other than the search for a medium which would come even closer to my vision of real fairness. A few months ago, I decided to stop using the Transfair Canada trademark. My decision may seem simplistic but it is the result of numerous readings, discussions and reflections on the subject. My approach allowed us to put together a different strategy that will be in harmony with our values. Let's be less naive and carry out more effective interventions than sending thousands of dollars annually to an organization based in Ottawa, which employs around fifteen people and which only contacts me to remind me that I owe them money or that my quarterly reports contain errors... I don't blame them, they are doing their job as brand managers but I only consider that they no longer meet my requirements in my concept of fair trade. I also want a type of business that is less infantilizing and where farmers can maintain their dignity in our relationships. It will not be from a perspective of charity or good conscience that we will work in partnership but rather because we will develop a win-win relationship.

Brûlerie du Quai currently employs around thirty people, it is through their work that I can allow myself to project into the future a vision of equity which should be reflected in more concrete actions.

I'm an action guy, I need that to reflect in my business. I won't settle for simply paying a premium on roasting certified coffee. I want to go further. This is why I created a logo (Projet Achat-direct) which currently replaces the fair trade logo of Transfair on my packaging. This project, currently in the communication, fundraising and bringing together of Quebec roasters phase, will allow us to purchase batches of coffee directly from the producer, without any intermediary. I mentioned briefly above the notion of the dignity of the producer, this notion is in my opinion very important. The notion of fairness as seen by current organizations is a form of social assistance. Yesterday I gave a talk on coffee. In the group, a woman explains to me that she comes from Madagascar, and that at her place, we process the coffee by hand and that it is one of the best coffees in the world, in the top ten. On a note of humility, she did not say what rank in the top ten but it is on this pride, on this recognition of work that commerce should be based. And not on the notion of “you are poor, we are rich, we will give you money, regardless of whether the fruit of your labor is of quality”. Give a guaranteed income based on a condition of weakness, poverty, minority and you will only get misery. Of course, there is room for discussion here, but I still retain an element of naivety that tells me to go in this direction.

Currently, we have a first commitment to a farm in Costa Rica, Llano Bonito. We should buy all their production this year. I also have steps with Rwanda.

This type of work is difficult when remaining alone, which is why the Achat-direct project initiative is dissociated from Brûlerie du Quai in order to allow the collaboration of other roasting companies. If you are a roaster, I invite you to contact me to discuss it.

The other difficulty comes from financing. Buying batches of coffee requires considerable cash. We have the logistics for purchasing, transport, warehousing in Gaspésie, distribution, we only need a few investors to get started. Notice to those interested!

In conclusion, this approach is essentially intended to be a reorientation of the notion of equity-charity towards win-win business relationships where everyone will retain their dignity and pride. And it is also by turning in this direction that I feel the fresh wind of naivety so dear to the creation of great things. There will be obstacles along the way but who cares. We listen to our hearts and we leave. We look forward to letting you taste the first arrivals of micro-lots from direct purchase!

1 comment

  • Patrick Albert

    Bonjour Dany,
    Qu’est-il advenu de ce projet? Ça semblait pourtant très intéressant, mais j’imagine que tu as rencontré des difficultés pour rassembler les gens et le réaliser. As-tu trouvé d’autres moyens de parvenir aux mêmes fins? J’ai vu ailleurs que le “Direct Trade” semble prendre une certaine ampleur; est-ce que tu y trouves ton compte?
    Au plaisir de te lire à nouveau.
    P. s.: je crois que j’ai presque tout lu dans ce blog; très intéressant, enrichissant et plaisant à lire. Bravo !

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published