Is it okay?
I’ll begin by stating that this is a delicate issue, and one that I do not wish to use to become some sort of litmus test or indictment of anyone or any company. I’ve taken my own time to ‘evolve’ on this, and I’m definitely not trying to claim ethical superiority. It’s really about raising an issue that challenges us all in the coffee community, so here it goes:
Is it okay to use certain images from coffee ‘origin’ in our marketing… specifically (as perhaps the most severe category) photos of children?
If you went down to the closest playground to your coffee roasting facility, and took photos of the children there, would it be ethical to use those images in your marketing? Without parental consent? Would it even be legal?
There is undeniable beauty in those photos from origin. But as coffee companies say that they are interested in concepts like ‘direct trade’ and in paying higher prices for higher quality, what about the other stuff? What about the other basic signs of respect (or lack thereof)?
Does the act of commerce (exchange of goods and services) absolve us from looking at our suppliers as our peers? Why do we not afford the same considerations to those at origin that we would our peers at home?
What does this say about our claims regarding ‘direct trade’ and that we enjoy meaningful relationships with our coffee producers? Did we just forget deeper manifestations of “meaningful relationships,” or does the way we exploit coffee producers reveal our real objectives: that all that sourcing and direct-this and relationship-that is ultimately about making ourselves look good to our audience, and really nothing meaningful about dignity and support for our suppliers beyond a payoff?
Just sharing my reflections for this sunny California Sunday morning.