Ethics and Environment in the Coffee Sector : A case study of Löfbergs Lila

University essay from Karlstads universitet/Fakulteten för samhälls- och livsvetenskaper


Coffee is a much enjoyed everyday-luxury in many parts of the world. It is not only enjoyed as a stimulant but also for social activities. “Fika” is a Swedish word which is difficult to translate and basically means to-have-coffee-with-friends. Coffee is so loved in Sweden that the average Swede consumes about nine and a half kilogram per year. But coffee often comes with a bitter aftertaste of environmental degradation and social injustice. Pesticide use is one of the environmental problems; some of the most dangerous ones are used in coffee productions. When it comes to social aspects world market prices on coffee has been very low for about two decades. At its worst coffee farmers were paid about a quarter of the production price for their coffee. This has led to a situation of wide spread financial debt, poverty, and sometimes even starvation among farmers. One solution which some farmers take is drug production. Coca is easy to grow and gives high revenue, which may make it appealing to a desperate coffee farmer. Another option can be provided by responsible corporations and concerned consumers –a fair pay.

The coffee sector in general and Swedish coffee roasting company Löfbergs Lila AB in particular are used as a case study for this thesis focal point which is the correlation between consumer power and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The large social and environmental problems in the coffee sector make it an area where voluntary responsibilities from consumers and businesses can have a very large positive impact. Sales numbers of organically produced and Fairtrade labelled coffee are increasing due to consumer demand. It is clear that consumer power is one of the cornerstones of CSR. When consumers ask for socially and ecologically sustainable goods corporations can produce these goods with an economical gain, thus a win-win situation occurs for corporate profit and the social-/environmental sphere. Both consumer demand and the possibility for corporate profit seams to be prerequisites for CSR.

It is clear that voluntary approaches to sustainable development such as consumer choice and CSR can lead to many positive changes; however concerns arise when it comes to the fulfilment of sustainable development. The ecological footprint gives us a number for the worlds’ total over consumption and it shows that to fulfil sustainable development as defined in “Our common future”, also known as the Brundtland commission, most western countries would have to reduce their total consumption by approximately 75 %. Consumers are driven by many other factors than social and environmental concerns, and companies and corporations have shown many times that there is much talk in CSR but little is actually done. This leads to the conclusion that although some positive changes occur, voluntary actions such as CSR and consumer power/choice will probably not be enough to lead us to a sustainable development.

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