It’s a typical Monday morning. Across the Northeastern United States, people head in droves to their nearest McDonald’s for their morning cup of coffee and a bite to eat. But thanks to an innovative joint venture, their coffee isn’t simply a tasty source of caffeine. Instead, their purchase is helping thousands of family farmers in developing countries make a better living.

Last November, McDonald’s announced that it would sell only Fair Trade Certified coffee in 658 of its restaurants across...

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