Conservation International (CI) announced a bold plan during the World Coffee Conference to make coffee the world’s first completely sustainable agricultural commodity.
Delegates to the International Coffee Organization’s (ICO) event, hosted by the government of Ethiopia, were challenged to partner with the Challenge to develop a plan to drive the industry toward sustainable production.
“We need a common definition of sustainability for the coffee sector,” said Peter Seligmann, chairman and c.e.o. 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.”
“We are a dynamic and diverse coalition from across the sector, united in the belief that it is possible to grow coffee while ensuring the prosperity and wellbeing of farmers and conserving forest, water and soil,” according to Bambi Semroc, a CI senior strategic adviser.
Climate change is affecting growing conditions, market volatility has significantly lowered prices and aging coffee trees are declining in productivity, she said.
“This is leaving the next generation of coffee farmers seeking economic alternatives for their livelihoods,” said Semroc.
Seligmann said “these are complex issues that require a wide range of solutions. There are numerous pathways to sustainability and every individual, business and organization involved in coffee has a role to play. By sharing knowledge and experience, we can stimulate demand for sustainability across the sector and spur the actions and investments necessary to meet head on challenges facing coffee.”
The Challenge begain in December 2015 with 18 participating entities, a number that has since grown to 35 organizations representing companies that buy and sell the coffee, as well as NGOs, donors such as the Multilateral Investment Fund and USAID, and certification bodies.
“All these actors can make commitments and investments that drive progress on particular issues related to coffee production, such as forest restoration on degraded farmlands, or the empowerment of women farmers, and so on.
The Challenge has created four working groups to define a road map for the coming years. These are: commitments, sustainability framework, governance and communications. Groups are comprised of volunteers.
“The first group was tasked with understanding the range of sustainability commitments being made by actors in the coffee sector,” reports Simroc. The second group is working collaboratively to develop a framework that will lay out what exactly we mean by “sustainability.” The third is focused on governance of the Challenge — what it looks like and how it should be managed. And the fourth will make sure we have a clear communications plan.
Connect with the Challenge April 17 at SCAA, Atlanta.
Learn more: www.conservation.org