We are committed to a fair price for high quality olive oil. It should be worthwhile for olive growers to produce organically and sustainably, and to take care of the trees, nature and the preservation of cultural landscapes. Only a fair price that covers the true costs of this task will enable them to have a dignified standard of living while doing so. We hope that the next generation will also see their future in making a valuable contribution to healthy human nutrition, biodiversity and sustainability as olive growers.
For many farmers it is not worthwhile to produce good olive oil. Even at a low cost and neglecting nature, most of the olive growers can barely survive. In fact, the average olive farmer is exploited economically, right among us here in Europe. Is it surprising that olive farmers end up in a poverty trap and illegal employment, that their children flee to the north, and that olive groves are neglected and go up in flames?
Unfortunately, it is difficult for the consumer to distinguish really good from bad extra virgin olive oil. Such a market can end up in a downward spiral where suppliers of better quality are being displaced by cheap and adulterated goods. (In 2001, George Akerlof received the Nobel Prize for this insight.) The victims of this downward spiral are ultimately those who care for the centuries-old olive trees and have to live off them.
Fortunately, there are ways out of the downward spiral. il circolo has set itself the goal of ending the exploitation in the olive oil market, together with your help. How do we want to achieve that? il circolo sees itself as a “social enterprise” and wants to change the olive oil business from within. We have a bold roadmap that shows us the way to high quality olive oil without exploiting people or nature.
What does il circolo do?
The circular idea in il circolo means that returns are first and foremost ploughed back to their origins, for the good of the people, their environment and their future. Our goal is not to maximize profits but to manage il circolo socially and sustainably. Every year we make small and big steps that bring us closer to our goals. It will not be easy, and we are just getting started, but together we can do it.
il circolo is committed to ensuring that olive oil consumers are aware of the exploitation and inequality in this industry. The more olive oil enthusiasts and retailers demand exploitation free olive oil, the more middlemen and big oil companies will listen and be forced to change their buying and selling policies. The more people know about the downward spiral in this industry.
We want everyone in our supply chain to be satisfied, from the harvester and the pruner to you. We want to show that high-quality, healthy and exploitation free olive oil can exist; for this we must (also) be economically successful. To be able to achieve this, we have defined three cycles that must be met in order to produce credible and traceable olive oil.
- Fair prices: That's why we pay a minimum price that lies well above current market prices. This bonus is recalculated every year, depending on the region and current market prices. The premium is not an end in itself, but finances sustainable agriculture with a fair wage and no moonshining. Farm workers receive an official salary with social security contributions, insurance and the development of pension rights. This is not always usual practice on olive farms ... to the contrary, for some farm workers it is even the first time.
- CO2 negative: il circolo fights against the exploitation of nature. The organic certificate of the EU is only part of it. All our farm buildings are off-the-grid and solar powered. We also try to use as much battery and solar as possible for farm equipment. Agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than the sum of all transportation vehicles, and soil emissions contribute significantly to these emissions. But with proper management, olive oil is a carbon negative product. We therefore experiment with various "carbon farming" methods, such as avoiding burning of branches, minimal use of plowing, and more soil cover between the trees. With the help of the Tony's premium other farmers will be able to implement this knowledge also in their olive growing operations.
- Transparency: At il circolo, all payments are exchanged with e-invoicing via the central "Sistema di Interscambio" and disclosed if necessary. Another element of transparency is the tracing of each liter of olive oil to the original olive grove. We have no big tanks of mixed oil of dubious origin. For each il circolo bottle, our website specifically indicates which olives it contains and where they have been grown. With traceability, the customer can rely on superior quality, which prevents the creation of a "market for lemons" and a downward spiral.
How can we improve carbon farming in olive groves? Which organic farming methods are particularly suitable for olives? The cultivation of the olive tree is thousands of years old ... and yet it faces enormous, modern challenges. il circolo experiments with different methods of organic farming. Members of il circolo are involved in multidisciplinary research projects on food fairness, but also in projects on river basin ecosystems and the role of olive cultivation. We share all our findings - with other olive farmers and with you.
We need you
Together we are stronger and can make all olive oil fair and sustainable. We support all fairly produced oil, no matter where it comes from. The more people choose fair olive oil, the more likely olive oil made without the exploitation of people and nature will become the norm in the oil business. Then we have finally come full circle: il circolo.