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A common language for sustainable coffee: The Coffee Data Standard

Posted on 23/04/2019

From farmers to retailers, the coffee supply chain produces a huge amount of data that is vital for monitoring progress towards sustainability. The problem is however, how do we streamline it and use it to our individual and collective advantage?  

In an ever-changing market environment, the Global Coffee PlatformCommittee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), Rainforest Alliance and Waterwatch Cooperative are pleased to announce the completion of the Coffee Data Project, supported by the ISEAL Innovations Fund. As of today, all supply chain actors can now integrate fifteen (15) common indicators for farm-level sustainability into their reporting systems and benefit from more efficient transactions and more effective resource allocation due to the ability to identify areas that are high performing or those that need strengthening.

Refined and backed by a broad consensus of key stakeholders and a carefully selected global expert committee, the Coffee Data Standard delivers a common language for all coffee supply chain actors through the identification of fifteen (15) common indicators for farm-level coffee sustainability. Once operationalized throughout the reporting systems of supply chain actors, the indicators will be functional across origins and comparable over time. As a result, the Coffee Data Standard promises to enable more efficient transactions and reporting, and more effective resource allocation due to the ability to identify areas that are high performing or that need strengthening. 

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Advantages of operationalizing the Coffee Data Standard

  

According to Annette Pensel, Executive Director of GCP, this initiative has a huge potential if it gets track and spreads across the sector: "Central to the Coffee Data Standard is its potential to add value to the data that is collected. By working with the same metrics, GCP Members and the sector will be able to identify and take action on areas for improvement and to develop financial products that are more attractive and accessible to coffee farmers."

Integrating the 15 indicators into reporting systems and encouraging other supply chain partners to do the same will enhance the ability to strategically plan future sustainability investments. Naturally, as more and more supply chain actors adopt them, the more widespread they will become and the more engrained will the benefits be in day-to-day business. This is echoed by Henk Gilhuis, Senior Specialist, Science and Impacts at Rainforest Alliance: “Using indicators based on a common language will help us all to better measure impacts in the field, and to act on them”. 

Additionally, the indicators will be used as the foundations for the Delta Project, a 3-year collaboration between the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), which aims to gain government endorsement of these indicators, and ultimately scale them to other commodities. 

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Data standardization


In the coffee sector, as with many other commodities, there are more and more pressing requirements for data collection and reporting. Final buyers require more evidence of how coffee is produced, those reporting in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) might need differing information or perhaps a voluntary sustainability standard has additional internal requirements. Whatever the case, both the volume and heterogeneity of data being generated is dramatically growing.  The need and urgency for the coffee sector to establish a common language to measure sustainability is boldly upon us. Which is why the completion of the Coffee Data Standard comes at a very welcomed time. 

Daniele Giovannucci, President of COSA highlights this effort, achieving a common set of metrics, is a benchmark achievement for sustainability for the coffee worldBased on sound science, our common metrics open the door for other crops and commodities to advance.”

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The 15 common indicators for farm-level sustainability

Are they mandatory?

While utilizing the 15 indicators is not yet mandatory, integrating them into your reporting systems and encouraging your supply chain partners to do the same will lead to accessing the benefits associated to operationalizing the indicators and enhance your ability to strategically plan future sustainability investments. Naturally, as more and more supply chain actors adopt them, the more widespread they will become.

Additionally, the indicators will be used as the foundations for the Delta Project, a three year collaboration between the GCP, the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), which aims to gain government endorsement and application of the indicators and ultimately scale them to other commodities. 

Henk Gilhuis, Senior Specialist, Science and Impacts Rainforest Alliance, comments on those indicators: "Using indicators based on a common language will help us all to better measure impacts in the field, and to act on them." 

What do I need to do?

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  1. Discuss internally with your operations team on the best way to integrate the 15 indicators into your internal reporting system
  2. Utilize the Coffee Data Standard site for all technical support
  3. Contact COSA for a more comprehensive assessment on integrating measurement tools into your business
  4. Reach out and encourage your supply chain partners to do the same.

How were they developed?

The fifteen indicators are a result of the Coffee Data Project, a collective multi-stakeholder approach which aimed to define key metrics for sustainability performance. Based on the Sustainability Progress Framework elaborated by the Sustainable Coffee Challenge (SCC) and the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), the Coffee Data Project was initiated by GCP, COSA, Rainforest Alliance, and WaterWatch and worked closely with a highly experienced global expert committee. Building on the partners’ extensive global experience with sustainability metrics and the expertise of the committee members, practical metrics were developed and synthezised in order to operationalize the indicators and to be functional across origins and comparable over time. 

Andre Jellema, Project Manager for the Waterwatch Cooperative states that “a lot of impact is expected from the responsible sharing of data along the agricultural value chain - better decision making, creating synergies, and increased efficiency >span class="EOP SCXW159101667 BCX2" data-ccp-props="{"201341983":0,"335559739":160,"335559740":259}" data-redactor-span="true">

The Coffee Data Standard was brought to life by the invaluable support of the ISEAL Innovations Fund, whose leaders are looking forward to see it implemented "The Coffee Data Standard makes the case for how aligned data collection across a sector brings additional value to all stakeholders. We are excited to see how the Coffee Data Standard will serve as a framework for digital innovation across the ISEAL membership, and how it compliments other projects supported by the ISEAL Innovations Fund." Affirmed Norma Tregurtha, Director of Policy and Partnerships at ISEAL Alliance.

Partners

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Global Expert Committee

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