The Fair Trade Certified™ seal represents thousands of products, improving millions of lives, protecting land and waterways in 45 countries and counting.
Beyond exists strictly to produce the world’s best cashews through a fair trade, thriving, and sustainable farming community.
You may have never thought about where your cashews come from. You’ve likely gotten them from the grocery store or as part of a gift basket, and you’ve enjoyed their crunchy yet buttery texture without a second thought. But behind the delicious snack, many workers are forced to operate under inhumane conditions that may harm them, as well as the planet, local communities, and local economies. At Beyond the Nut, our goal is to offer cashews that are sourced, processed, and sold with the highest of ethical standards, which is why we are so proud to offer fair trade cashews.
In simple terms, fair trade is when the people who produce food in developing countries are paid a fair price by those in developed countries. This means that the price we pay for products, like cashews, allows the producers to afford the essential things in life, like food, education, and healthcare. Fair trade was developed as an alternative to other forms of trade, relying on partnerships and an equal interest in the wellbeing of workers and commercial considerations. The goal of fair trade is to address poverty and help countries build a model for development.
In order to be considered fair trade, a number of key principles are in place to ensure businesses are operating ethically. Some of these principles include the following:
Whenever possible, a fair trade importer works directly with the producer of goods. Without a middleman, the producers are able to take home a larger share of the profit. In many cases, there are collectives (or groups of small scale growers) that are democratically run and split their profits equally, giving these small producers more power.
No matter how low the market price falls, farmers are guaranteed a reasonable minimum price. In addition, they are promised prompt payment. In turn, they promise to pay any workers a fair wage. In many cases, producers are also offered credit or advanced payments to ensure they have the resources needed to meet their demands.
Farmers under fair trade rules must provide safe, healthy workplace conditions to any and all workers. This includes a ban on child labor and forced labor, practices that are very common in many parts of the world. Any form of worker abuse, harassment, or discrimination is banned as well. This includes provisions that forbid discrimination based on political affiliation or union involvement.
It is encouraged that producers, buyers, and consumers all have open and honest communication under fair trade. Growers should be informed of market conditions, industry best practices, or technical assistance whenever possible. In return, they build long-term relationships with importers that ensure supply for the long haul.
Development of Community
In addition to fair prices, Fair Trade growers are also given premiums to invest in their community. Whether it is education, healthcare, digging wells, or other initiatives, part of the goal is to lift up the communities where goods are sourced from. This includes investments in the local businesses, which can increase profits and be invested back into the community.
Even when a product is not organic, fair trade rules require a farmer to use sustainable growing practices and protect natural resources like water, soil, and natural vegetation. This includes restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers, particularly those deemed most harmful. Farmers also pledge to efficiently use energy and manage waste through reducing, reusing, and recycling when possible. The use of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is explicitly banned in all fair trade products.
Anyone working with a fair trade producer makes a promise to respect the culture and heritage of the growers they work with. They are able to follow traditional practices, rather than being forced to adopt new methods that are seemed more efficient. However, they are also able to share new practices and technologies, where applicable, that can help producers meet demand.
In accordance with these principles, products can be certified as fair trade by a range of organizations, allowing consumers to choose goods that have been made with these ethical standards in mind.
In much of the past, cashews have not been produced using the standards above for fair trade goods. In fact, some instances of cashew production involved severe violations of human rights. For instance, over 40,000 drug addicts in Vietnam are forced to shell cashews as a form of “labor therapy.” Even where conditions are better, cashews are often exported for processing, leaving the communities where they grow without any of the benefits of their labor. The price of raw cashews is significantly lower than the price of those that have been processed, meaning the communities of origin were often making very little money off a profitable product.
In 2010, Benin, West Africa exported 98% of raw cashews for processing in other countries. This meant that the local workers were not able to participate in the economy of cashews, losing out on jobs, potential wealth, and opportunities for work. As the global demand for cashews increased, Beyond the Nut decided to change the industry and focus on a local, fair trade method of processing cashews and selling them.
The cashew nuts you are used to do not grow independently—instead, they are the seed of a fruit known as the cashew apple. This seed can be harvested, but it first must be removed from its two-layer shell, which contains toxins and is not edible. In the past, “raw” or unshelled cashews would be sent out of Benin to be shelled, and the involvement of the community stopped there.
Now, the cashews are steamed locally to help with shell removal, then carefully extracted to get to the cashew nut that is edible. Once the cashews have been split and removed from their shell, they are dried and cleaned to prepare for sale. During this process, fair trade regulations ensure that anyone shelling the nuts coats their hands in vegetable oil to prevent burns as one safety measure. While this may seem small, it is a measure that can be taken because of fair trade premiums and the commitment to healthy working environments.
In order to ensure fair trade cashews, Beyond the Nut works with a network of local farmers, entrepreneurs, engineers, and community members to sustain cashew production. In addition to high-quality products, there is a focus on a sustainable operation. This means environmental sustainability, as well as a business model that can help generations of local residents to meet their needs. Over 7,000 local farmers provide the cashews that are processed for sale through Beyond, with over 650 individual employees in Benin.