Journal of Consumer Policy

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 241–261 | Cite as

Fair Trade Coffee and Human Rights in Guatemala

  • Sarah Lyon
Original paper


This paper explores how the fair trade coffee market translates consumer action and shopping habits into the promotion of human rights in distant locales. This process does not occur through direct producer–consumer contact. Instead, it is channeled through two interrelated avenues. First, the fair trade certification system which requires producer groups to be democratic, transparent, and accountable and second, the relationships between producers and coffee roasters and importers, who, in this specific commodity chain, act as conduits for consumer actions and intentions. These two facets of the fair trade consumer market promote and protect the secure organizational space that is necessary for producer initiated community development. This freedom to identify and fulfill economic and social development goals through cooperation also reaffirms existing cultural traditions of service and mutual aid among producers. These key components of human rights compliance are critically important in countries such as Guatemala with its history of violent repression, structural inequality, and cultural discrimination against indigenous populations and community organizers. The analysis emerges from ongoing ethnographic research on a group of indigenous, fair trade coffee producers in Guatemala and their relationships with outside buyers and certifiers.


Fair trade Consumption Coffee Human rights 



This research was funded through grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Fulbright-Hayes, the Emory Fund for Internationalization, and a University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Summer Faculty Research Fellowship. I would like to thank Michele Micheletti and anonymous reviewers for their editorial suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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