This week at the U.N. climate negotiations, Conservation International (CI) announced the launch of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge — a call to action to make coffee the first sustainable agricultural product in the world. The announcement comes as ministers gather to write a new climate agreement and as momentum builds for businesses to take direct action to combat climate change.
The Sustainable Coffee Challenge aims to transform coffee production, moving specialty and mainstream producers toward sustainability. It will convene industry, conservation and agricultural development partners to develop a common framework for sustainability in the coffee sector. Over the next 100 days, CI will formalize engagement with partners for the Challenge, while developing a plan to drive the industry toward total sustainability. The initial plan of action will be unveiled to coincide with the 4th World Coffee Conference next March in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Currently, nearly half of the world’s coffee is being produced according to a sustainability standard, a figure that does not yet account for a number of recent significant investments made by the sector to support farmers in their transition to more sustainable practices. Yet only 12% was sold as sustainable coffee in the market. The Sustainable Coffee Challenge will work to strengthen demand for sustainably produced coffee and better account for progress made within the sector.
“We need a common definition of sustainability for the coffee sector,” said Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO of Conservation International. “This will require commitments by roasters to support increased demand for sustainability. It will also require improved measurement of how far the sector has come in the sustainability journey — and just how far we have to go.”
“For all the progress made in the coffee sector of the past two decades, there is much work to be done. For all the great efforts of the standards setters, NGOs and farmers themselves, sustainability in the coffee sector will ultimately depend upon the commitment of the industry itself to drive and demand better practices. This initiative will help drive demand for sustainable coffee and in so doing can accelerate progress to an agricultural product that benefits the entire supply chain. This will be to the benefit of consumers and the entire industry, including the millions of farmers whose livelihoods depend upon coffee,” said Rob Cameron, Executive Director, SustainAbility.
CI kicks off this challenge with key partners including Starbucks Coffee Company, Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative, 4C Association, Allegro Coffee Company, Ceres, Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), Counter Culture Coffee,ECOM Agroindustrial Corp. Ltd., Fairtrade America, Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST), Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS), Keurig Green Mountain Inc., Lutheran World Relief, Pelican Rouge Coffee Roasters B.V., S&D Coffee & Tea, Solidaridad and SustainAbility.
The Sustainable Coffee Challenge comes at a time when nearly every major coffee-producing region of the world is feeling the impacts of climate change. Even as consumer demand increases — people drink 600 billion cups of coffee every year, and the coffee industry is a US$ 22 billion business — warming temperatures, drought and changing weather patterns are affecting coffee production.
Yet the industry has a part to play in reversing climate change. Halting deforestation globally, including through fostering sustainable farming practices in coffee production, can provide more than 30% of the carbon sequestration and storage needed to limit global temperature rise to safe levels.
As its plan goes into effect, the Challenge will stimulate economic development across the industry and benefit the lives of 25 million coffee producers, the majority of whom are small-scale farmers. It will also provide environmental benefits, including the conservation of vital forests that help fight climate change by storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and also protect freshwater resources.
For more information, check out the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.