Retailers can distinguish themselves by offering products that will ultimately affect their future.
If you own a coffee shop, you're in a great position to make an impact beyond your front door. More consumers than ever are voting with their dollar—buying products that align with their ideal(s) of how the world should be. These consumers are included to choose one coffee shop over another if they feel that shop shares their values—such as by carrying sustainable coffee(s). Thus when all else is equal,
Consider the issue of how coffee pricing versus affects coffee quality. (You thought quality affected price? Not always.) When a glut of low-quality coffee enters the market and sells at an equally low price, the price for higher-quality beans also goes down. Farmers who've invested in growing and processing quality beans don't end up making enough money to justify production costs, forcing them to either grow lower-grade coffee (and thus perpetuate poor quality) or to uproot their coffee plants and grow different products altogether.
And if consumers end up regularly exposed to cheap, ill-tasting coffee they will either expect to always pay a low price, or switch to drinking something else.
It's not hard to imagine that if low-grade coffee began to dominate the market year after year, enough farmers would quit growing specialty coffee that thesupply of specialty-grade coffees would dry up.
But certifying bodies like Bird Friendly, USDA Organic, FairTrade International, Rainforest Alliance—as well as the Direct Trade model—are helping farmers get a fairer price for producing specialty coffee (though just how much it helps is up for debate) while also incentivizing environmental protections for the next generation of coffee farmers and the ecosystems around them.
Nonetheless, it's helping to some degree. If you are already selling a certified coffee, make sure your customers know about it. It could be the one thing they consider when deciding where to spend their money.