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Coffee industry -- Developing countries, Fair trade foods -- Social aspects -- Developing countries


This case describes the issues and dilemmas facing a company in their efforts to differentiate their product through a social sustainability programme. Over the years, the company has built a strong reputation with their sustainability efforts, particularly amongst their peers in the specialty coffee industry. There is some question as to whether this reputation has been visible to consumers and if consumers see the value-proposition. The case covers the history of coffee, the specialty coffee industry, the supply chain and roles of different participants, and the competitive landscape.

Furthermore, most of the competitive eco-labels and certification schemes are discussed. The reader is asked to decide the appropriate method for conveying the company’s social sustainability efforts to the marketplace and beyond that, to consider how one might measure and monitor social programs in the developing world. The case is designed to highlight decisions related to marketing and operations strategy, pros and cons of certification, and particularly social sustainability versus the other aspects of sustainability.


This case study was awarded 1st place in the 2010 OIKOS Global Case Writing Competition - Corporate Sustainability.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit

Copyright © 2010 by the Author(s). This case was prepared by Prof. Madeleine Pullman as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate the effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.

This case is accompanied by a teaching note, available to faculty only. Please send your request to The authors are thankful for any feedback and suggestions to further develop this case. Please contact the authors directly at

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