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Environmental and social responsibility in the coffee industry : a case for Oaxaca, Mexico


The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives implemented by large coffee corporations and determine whether their practices could be applied to Oaxaca, Mexico's coffee growing region to improve that region's coffee sector. While Oaxaca has the topographic propensity to grow quality coffee, its success as a reputable coffee growing region has been stagnated. This project indicated that Oaxaca is not prospering in high quality or niche coffee markets due to interrelated issues of inefficiency in the sector, high levels of poverty in coffee growing regions, lack of business training and agronomy education, and inconsistent aid from both state and federal governments. To make up for the region's shortcomings, it is recommended that Oaxaca look to CSR, which in part has been applied through nonprofit organizations' certification schemes such as Fair Trade USA, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ CERTIFIED. This study recommends that Oaxacan farmers first look to systems that focus on farmer training and improving the quality and consistency of their coffee beans. It is then recommended that farmers seek out niche markets and certification schemes that reward farmers with price premiums. By distinguishing their coffee from the conventional coffee market, farmers may "de-commodify" their coffee, making it more valuable and less susceptible to the volatile coffee commodity market. The study also concludes that there is a need for a reform in the sector's auditing practices, and that civil society is a vital component for stimulating increased sales of ethically sourced coffee

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