Here’s to One Year!

A Toast to the Sustainable Coffee Challenge

© CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL/PHOTO BY MIGUEL ÁNGEL DE LA CUEVA

One year ago we launched the Sustainable Coffee Challenge at the UN Climate Change conference that resulted in the pivotal Paris Agreement. It was clear to those in attendance that implementing the agreement and tackling global climate change would require a concerted effort from all stakeholders: public, private and non-profit.

Tackling the sustainability issues in coffee requires a similar effort, which is why Conservation International joined forces with Starbucks and 16 other partners to launch the initiative. The Sustainable Coffee Challenge brings together representatives from every part of the coffee sector — from farmers, traders and roasters to industry organizations, governments and more — to achieve the ambitious goal of making coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product.

Fast forward one year, and our experiences with the Challenge have been truly encouraging. We’ve seen notable growth in the number of coffee sector stakeholders participating in the Challenge — 56 to be exact. This includes the governments of Rwanda and Mexico, which became the first national governments to sign up, and McDonald’s, which joined in early October.

Even more noteworthy are the ambitious, significant commitments partners have made on the Commitments Hub we launched in June. For instance, Keurig Green Mountain has vowed to source 100% of its green coffee responsibly by 2020. Starbucks is planting a coffee tree for every bag of coffee that is purchased in the participating locations in the United States to support farmers affected by coffee rust. Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) has committed to unite efforts and increase coffee production to 4.5 million bags in 2018–19, focusing on increasing production and income of coffee farmers for a sustainable livelihood. The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is to supporting global retailers in the deployment of supplier sustainability surveys covering 100M USD in coffee purchasing by 2020, thus sending a strong market signal for sustainable coffee. To facilitate this, TSC will release its coffee supplier survey and other components of its coffee toolkit into the public domain, and work with others toward broader alignment. And we at Conservation International are working to make sure that — 10 years from now, the Challenge has gathered enough sustainability commitments to cover 75% of the world’s coffee production. There is plenty more to come; these are but a few of the commitments we are collectively making to advance sustainability in the sector.

We’ve been around the globe — from New York City to Berlin, and from Ethiopia to Japan — to introduce the Challenge to all stakeholders that are involved in bringing coffee to millions of consumers every day. In September, we released the Coffee Sustainability Catalogue with SCAA and GCP to uncover what coffee sector stakeholders are already doing to foster sustainability and how they can collaborate to achieve even better results. And, just last month, we launched the first draft of our Sustainability Framework— a detailed roadmap for achieving a fully sustainable coffee sector.

While we’ve accomplished a lot in a year’s time, we know there’s still much left to be done. The climate is changing, market prices are volatile, and youth are less interested in becoming coffee farmers. This means that coffee production remains at risk and strong coalitions like the Sustainable Coffee Challenge are more important than ever if we are to keep the world caffeinated.

We’ve spent the past year building a strong partnership that has laid the foundation for success. We have more work to do as we pivot toward action in 2017. But today, let’s take a moment to reflect on our collective successes, raise a (reusable!) mug, and give a toast to our hardworking partners as we continue our work to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product.

Cheers to us!

Bambi Semroc, Senior Strategic Adviser, Conservation International