Carbon footprinting experts call for the coffee sector

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Green Invest Asia project and Global Coffee Platform convened experts for a June 29th webinar on ways to increase collaboration in the coffee sector—to create a common framework for establishing carbon footprint baselines and drive climate action. 

“To get to net-zero, you need to know your net now, but if you have attempted in recent years to inventory your company’s direct or indirect emissions across complex supply chains, you will have realized that carbon footprinting methodologies have continued to be an evolving science given the various tools, standards, and practices,” said USAID’s senior Natural Resources Officer for Asia, Todd Johnson, articulating challenges that have blunted efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in coffee production. Lack of comparable data, lack of standardized carbon accounting methodologies, and opaque traceability continue to thwart well-intentioned efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions in coffee production. 

“Without baseline data, we can’t really understand [climate] benefits,” said Sara Diamond, Technical Lead for USAID’s Natural Climate Solutions Program. “We need to think beyond our own supply chains and adjacent landscapes, [but also] landscapes across jurisdictional scales, as well as across ecological  scales.” 

She presented USAID’s AFOLU (Agriculture, forestry and other land use) calculator, and explained how the tool’s design addressed the need for a multifunctional comprehensive carbon measurement tool that gathered verifiable data and included geospatial functionality. 

USAID Green Invest Asia’s Senior Agriculture and Forestry Advisor, Barry Flaming, provided updates about a joint carbon footprint baseline initiative that USAID Green Invest Asia has launched with the world’s two largest coffee roasters and GCP Members, Nestlé and JDE Peet’s, and 11 of the companies’ key suppliers in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and Southern Sumatra in Indonesia. The suppliers represent the world’s largest green coffee bean trading companies active in the two coffee producing regions as well as internationally. The team has designed a framework to collect representative data from sample farmers, with data collection to begin shortly. “This initiative really does hinge upon the role that the supplier partners are able to take and help us conduct data collection,” said Flaming. “That’s the big heavy lift in this part of the project.”

Experts circled back to value chain transparency, confidence in data, collaboration and cooperation across jurisdictions (where coffee is sourced from) as requisites for industry actors to agree on a common methodology to account for carbon emissions, which is needed to measure the coffee sector’s progress on greenhouse gas emission reduction. But it isn’t only about greenhouse gas emissions from the coffee sector, said USAID’s Todd Johnson. “The climate solutions you collectively undertake influence more than just your business, your supply chain, or your sector. Coffee’s prominence in international trade was valued at slightly over $30 billion in 2020. So in summary, methodologies matter.”

USAID will work with experts and entrepreneurs to achieve ambitious emissions reductions through natural climate solutions. The USAID’s 2022-2030 Climate Strategy aims to shift the market to resilient net- zero economies through mobilizing $150 billion of investments from the private sector, and partnering with the business and financial institutions to reach the goal of reducing, avoiding, or sequestering six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – roughly equal to the United States’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, GCP’s Coffee Sustainability Reference Code continues to gain traction in the sector and will soon be complemented by a revision of the GCP Equivalence Mechanism to help further align baseline metrics for the sector.

Learn more about the Coffee SR Code

Learn more about the Sustainable Coffee Dialogue series

First published by USAID