Sustainability in Coffee: Where do we start?

The future of the coffee industry (and all agriculture for that matter) relies on the implementation of
sustainable social/economic and environmental practices.
There is a need for clear transparency and traceability so that each actor in the industry is fairly
compensated, to ensure the growth of the industry, and prevent the decline of coffee agriculture.
Many coffee companies are now recognizing the importance of global standards such as Fairtrade,
Organic, and Rainforest Alliance etc. However, the real steps to becoming sustainable lie in the internal
standards set by each cog of the coffee machine.
It is vital, that the coffee industry becomes a collaborative system. Farmers, traders and roasters need to
work together to address the challenges created by today’s international market place.

Some Facts:
 There are 30 million small scale farms that cultivate coffee for commercial use
 100 million people make up the work force for processing and distribution
 Coffee is grown mainly in developing, low income countries
 The demand for coffee is increasing
 Statistics say that by 2050, there amount of available land for cultivation will halve due to
Climate change
 The increase in production costs and systematic strains and weather conditions are threatening
the profitability of coffee for the farmers
 The cultivation of coffee will decrease drastically if nothing is done to make the industry more

Currently, the effort needs to be put into making coffee profitable to the growers whilst ensuring that
the farming methods are sustainable for the environment. The biggest concern at present is farmer
Coffee growers are unlikely to implement sustainable farming methods if they cannot afford the
infrastructure or the risk.
In the climate of today, the apparent lack of profitability could lead to disinvestment in the land.

Whilst the world considers whether farmers play an important role in the international market, coffee
plants are aging and becoming less productive, and the changes in climate are making less and less land
arable for coffee cultivation.
Is there a solution?
Take care of the farmer and he will take care of you.
Companies such as Falcon Coffee direct their energy into creating ‘sustainable supply chains’ as a way to
ensure economic security to all participants of the industry.
Through direct involvement with the farmers, they are also able to provide access to training, credit and
information that will encourage sustainable practices.
Inefficient supply chains provide obstacles to the economic success of coffee growers globally.
Sustainable supply chains work efficiently by creating a collaborative system that promotes
transparency and traceability and looks after the members of its industry.
What is a ‘sustainable supply chain’ anyway?
An example of a sustainable supply chain is outlined in Falcon Coffee’s Blueprint for Sustainability which
encourages collaboration.
An efficient system is based on communication and as little loss of revenue as possible. Falcon’s
Blueprint has been successful through its involvement with the Rwanda Trading Company based in
The system is simple. Reduce the number of middle men between farmer, processor and buyer and
provide open communication and transparency between them.
Farmers are paid fairly for the produce based on market trends, processors have access to quality goods
at reasonable rates and buyers have reliable sources.
When there is communication between all levels of the industry, the global demand for quality coffee
can be met.
When there is reliable compensation and profitability, there is space for the improvement of
infrastructure and implementation of riskier, more environmentally sustainable farming practices.

Collaboration will set up the environment for a sustainable future in coffee. When each individual
component of the industry, from farmer, to roaster has the information and the means to choose
methods that support growth instead of the depletion of resources.
But first, the farmer has to take care of his family. Commercial success for the farmer is an essential
starting point for sustainable coffee.


Featured Image taken from Falcon Coffees website.