The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Green Invest Asia project and Global Coffee Platform (GCP) launched on October 6th the first of seven virtual industry Sustainable Coffee Dialogues that convene companies across the coffee value chain to collaborate on reducing sector-wide greenhouse gas emissions.
Organizers called for joint action to respond to a worsening climate crisis that threatens to disrupt the coffee supply chain. Global coffee demand is expected to triple by 2050, raising pressure on forests and other habitats in the tropical regions where it is grown as farmers look for new land to till.
“Pre-competitive action is the best action to advance sustainability”Carlos Brando, GCP Chair
On deforestation and climate change, Carlos Brando, GCP’s chairman, highlighted possibilities to diversify the number of productive coffee-producing countries from the small handful that supply most of the world’s coffee, increase the planting of shade trees to reduce emissions, and to pursue voluntary carbon reduction commitments.
“Pre-competitive action is the best action to advance sustainability,” said Brando, referring to when competitors co-create solutions to address shared challenges, from which no one company gains a competitive advantage over another.
Collaboration over competition
“It is becoming clear that there should not be a competition about who has the best [carbon measurement] tool, but what impact we are creating [as an industry] towards decarbonization of the coffee sector,” said Stefan Canz, Global Manager of Coffee and Cocoa for Farmer Connect, Nestlé’s global sustainability training program. and GCP Member. “This level of alignment is immensely important and this can only be done in a pre-competitive way,” said Canz, stressing the need for common sustainability standards across companies to help suppliers – many who sell to multiple roasters – understand, measure, and reduce carbon footprints.
Changing how coffee is grown, transported and consumed can reduce carbon emissions and help corporates – and the countries where they work – meet global warming caps under the Paris Agreement. A 2021 USAID-funded carbon footprint study conducted with JDE Peet’s and four of its suppliers found that climate-smart cultivation could lead to carbon-neutral, or even carbon-negative coffee on a number of farms in Vietnam, the world’s 2nd largest producer of coffee.
One of JDE Peet’s suppliers and leading coffee exporters in Vietnam, Simexco Daklak, learned through participating in the study that intercropping (planting non-coffee crops and shade or fruit trees alongside coffee in the same plantation) and reduced use of chemical fertilizers reduced greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain by more than 60 percent over five years. Simexco’s General Director Le Duc Huy said the task is now to scale the case study from its “500 farmers to 500,000 farmers nationwide” to achieve net-zero emissions coffee.Both JDE Peet’s and Simexco are also part of the GCP Membership community.
Scaling low-carbon coffee sector-wide is feasible, noted Aaron Brownell, Director of the Regional Environment Office for USAID’s Asia office. Some 75 percent of coffee production is concentrated in only five countries, and half the trade is handled by five companies, according to the 2020 Coffee Barometer. The global supply chain is closely tied to 10 multinational roasters that represent over 35 percent of global trade in green coffee.
“What this concentration in production and processing means is that participants in this forum effectively control market signals going to millions of coffee farms worldwide,” said Brownell. “You have the power to send a unified signal that sustainability is not a niche, but rather a critical necessity in today’s marketplace.”
Upcoming Sustainable Coffee Dialogues
Based on an industry survey of actors along the coffee supply chain in Southeast Asia, upcoming dialogues to be held every two months will focus on intercropping (November 24), carbon accounting methodologies and low-carbon coffee production basics (January 26, 2022), monitoring solutions (March 30), climate finance (May 25), pre-competitive collaboration to develop common criteria for sustainable coffee (July 27), low-carbon coffee trends and identifying joint impact initiatives (September 28).
USAID Green Invest Asia partners with agriculture, forestry, and other land use companies in Southeast Asia with proven business models, profit potential, and a demonstrated commitment to environmental and social stewardship. The project provides capital matchmaking, technical and business advisory services, access to financing with preferential terms and/or transaction support, including investment-readiness counsel to help scale business models that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. USAID Green Invest Asia also works with businesses seeking to “green” their supply chains to improve sourcing and facilitates industry initiatives to achieve sector-wide change.
Global Coffee Platform (GCP) is a unique multi-stakeholder membership association of coffee producers, traders, roasters and retailers, civil society, governments, and donors, united under a common vision to work collectively towards a thriving, sustainable coffee sector for generations to come. GCP Members believe that sustainability is a shared responsibility and collectively seek to address the most critical sustainability challenges to enhance farmers’ economic prosperity, improve well-being, and conserve nature.
GCP does this by convening and aligning relevant coffee stakeholders to advance sustainability, act on local issues, and scale successful sustainability initiatives across the sector. With its members and the GCP Network of Country Platforms in coffee producing countries, including in Vietnam and Indonesia, GCP works on increasing demand and supply of sustainably produced coffee in order to foster origin diversity and the viability of the coffee sector.