Working Together to Build a Thriving Sector

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success” stated Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company and the father of modern industrial production. At present, this message resonates very strongly within the coffee sector.

sulz1It comes as no surprise that the urgency for collaboration is now so strong. Over the last decade, the coffee sector has been a pioneer in bringing sustainability forward, putting in motion extensive research and a large number of projects and discussions that have already brought very positive results. Nowadays the coffee sector knows very well what its sustainability challenges are, and the best tools and strategies to address them. The Know-How is there. What is now urgently needed is a shared vision and an agenda to bring together the resources, knowledge, expertise and commitment of individual companies, organizations and governments to build a thriving coffee community for generations to come.

The urgency of this call was strongly felt at the recent Global Coffee Forum celebrated in Milan at the beginning of October. Under the motto “a virtuous cycle of pleasure, health and sustainability for coffee,” leaders of the sector shared their views on the key challenges and future of coffee around these three themes. The word “collaboration” was echoed in each and every presentation and conversation, and the need to align behind one common actionable agenda was voiced by key industry players, civil society, producers and government leaders.

In this search for ever-increasing collaboration, the 4C Association, the major multi-stakeholder organization in the coffee sector, has been and continues to be a frontrunner. Its members first came together more than 10 years ago to define the Common Code of the Coffee Community (“4C”) and build the 4C Association. Since then, they have progressed by staying together and joining forces on many different fronts. Among other achievements, they launched the 4C Code of Conduct in 2006, the baseline sustainably standard for the coffee sector, to reach out to coffee farmers worldwide, bringing them on their way towards sustainability and improving production practices at farm level. By the end of 2014, the Code was being used by more than 450,000 farmers and 1.4 million workers in 24 producing countries, producing 43 million bags (2,58 mil. tons) of 4C Compliant Coffee — nearly 29% of global coffee production. As per the demand side, the purchases of 4C Compliant Coffee by final buyers’ members of the 4C Association amounted to nearly 7% of global coffee consumption last year. These are indeed great progresses. But the members of the 4C Association are now ready to take an even more determined step towards final success. Their vision of success is one of a thriving sector, with sustainable production, increased farmer productivity and profitability and effective public-private collaboration to address the systemic issues at stake.

To achieve this, the members recently approved a new strategy to make the 4C Association the convening multi-stakeholder platform to agree on a common agenda to address key challenges. Building on the widely used 4C Code of Conduct, a non-negotiable baseline standard will be offered. This reference standard will be open for sector-wide adoption, eventually becoming part of national strategies, with the ambition to reach out to 100% of coffee farmers worldwide. Together with its members, the 4C Association will also define a set of common indicators to measure progress and report about their improvements over time, beyond the baseline standard.

The combination of these three elements, the multi-stakeholder platform, the baseline standard and the progress framework, is the ambitious Strategy of the 4C Association to lead the sustainable transformation of the coffee sector and contribute to a thriving sector for the generations to come.

Mark Moser - MSportraiteditThere has never been a greater momentum towards real collaboration for meaningful change. Now is the time to stop talking collaboration and actually start doing it. The actions we now collectively undertake, or fail to undertake, to address the many challenges that the sector faces, from adapting to climate change to increasing productivity or addressing gender inequality in the supply chain, will determine the capacity of coffee farmers to deliver their coffee beans to the world over the coming decades. Join the 4C Association today and contribute to the success story!

To find out more about the 4C Association, please visit:


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