Sustainable Coffee Challenge Lays the Groundwork to Make Coffee the First Sustainable Agricultural Product

The Sustainable Coffee Challenge unveils its roadmap for making coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product. The update comes as a follow-up to the Challenge’s launch in December at the UNFCCC climate negotiations in Paris and indicates the growing interest and demand for sustainability across the coffee industry.

The Challenge roadmap — which comprises input from 36 participant organizations including traders, roasters, and retailers as well as NGOs and donor agencies — is a plan to track sustainability commitments made across the coffee sector, analyze these commitments and their results, build a shared understanding of sustainability, and push toward ambitious future commitments from industry players, governments and other stakeholders. The Challenge and all commitments will be guided by a “North Star”: ensuring the prosperity and well-being of farmers; conserving forests, water and soil; and securing a long-term supply of coffee.

Worldwide, people drink 600 billion cups of coffee every year, and the coffee industry is a US $22 billion global business even as the sector continues to expand. Currently, nearly every major coffee-producing region of the world is under stress. However, rising temperatures, drought and changing weather patterns are affecting coffee production. Other factors also compound this stress: Market volatility has significantly lowered prices, aging coffee trees are declining in productivity, and the next generation of coffee farmers is seeking new sources of income. The industry will likely reach a critical point around 2030, when climate change impacts intensify as demand for coffee continues to grow in markets such as China and India.

“Each member of the coffee sector is at a different place in their sustainability journey and has a significant role to play in transitioning coffee to sustainable production,” said Conservation International’s Bambi Semroc, who leads the Sustainable Coffee Challenge. “The Challenge aspires to be the catalyst that drives more ambitious commitments to sustainability. Making coffee a sustainable product will only happen if, as a sector, we commit to sharing our experience and insights to unlock additional action and commitments by others.”

Under the umbrella of Vision2020, the Sustainable Coffee Challenge and the Global Coffee Platform are in close collaboration to find alignment and common ground to scale impact on sustainability in the coffee sector. In the months ahead, the Sustainable Coffee Challenge will create an online, open-source portal for industry members to publicly state and report on their commitments to sustainability. By gathering insights and data from all partners in the portal, the coffee sector will develop a better understanding about the contribution and results of the commitments. The Challenge will then pool lessons and will encourage additional commitments and investments into the most effective programs in order to motivate further action that drives it closer to its vision of a sustainable coffee sector.

About the Sustainable Coffee Challenge

The Sustainable Coffee Challenge is a coalition of businesses and organizations from across the coffee sector working to make coffee the first sustainable agricultural product. Designed to provide data and insights that demonstrate the collective demand for sustainability from across the sector, The Challenge recognizes that there is no single path to success. The Challenge is a catalyst for meaningful sustainability commitments that ensure actions are linked to impacts by tracking the efforts of diverse actors across the sector and linking them via a common framework for defining and tracking outcomes.

The Sustainable Coffee Challenge is managed by Conservation International with initial funding and support from founding partner Starbucks. Partners include: 4C Association, Ahold, Allegro Coffee Company, Ceres Coalition, Co-Crear, Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), CoffeeRed, Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), Counter Culture Coffee, ECOM Agroindustrial Corp. Ltd., FairTrade America, Falcon Coffees, Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST), Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS), IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, Intercontinental Coffee Trading (ICT), International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA), Java Mountain Coffee, Keurig Green Mountain Inc., Lutheran World Relief, Mercy Corps, Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), Pelican Rouge Coffee Roasters B.V., Rainforest Alliance, Rwanda Trading Company & TEMBO Coffee Company, S&D Coffee & Tea, Solidaridad, Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), Sucafina, SustainAbility, Sustainable Commodity Assistance Network (SCAN), Sustainable Harvest, Twin, USAID and UTZ.

About Conservation International

Since 1987, Conservation International has been working to improve human well-being through the care of nature. Under its guiding principle — nature doesn’t need people, but people need nature for food, water, health and livelihoods — CI works with more than 1,000 partners in 30 countries to ensure a healthy, more prosperous planet that supports human well-being. Learn more about CI and the “Nature Is Speaking” campaign, and follow CI’s work on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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