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Coffee barometer: Coffee companies not transparent about sustainability

These are some of the findings of the new Coffee Barometer – the latest report from the coffee collective consisting of: Conservation International, Hivos, Oxfam Belgium and Solidaridad and produced by Ethos Agriculture.

In coffee-producing countries, coffee roasters and traders can play a vital role in addressing pressing environmental and social issues

In coffee-producing countries, coffee roasters and traders can play a vital role in addressing pressing environmental and social problems and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unfortunately, coffee company policies, plans and financing are often focused on small-scale projects and are disproportionate to the problems farmers face.

The Coffee Barometer shows that 15 of the largest traders and roasters in the world do not prioritize key development goals

The Coffee Barometer shows that 15 of the largest traders and roasters in the world do not prioritize key development goals and that there is a major lack of transparency about the production, trade and consumption of coffee. While some companies are making progress in policy, they are seriously lacking in translating into measurable goals and sharing results. No company is making serious progress, according to the report.

Stefaan Calmeyn, coffee program manager for Oxfam Belgium responds to the report: ‘Large coffee companies must prove that their supply chains are free from human rights violations and deforestation and that they invest in a higher income for farmers, better working conditions and adaptations to a warmer climate. Policy alone is not enough, we only believe that companies are doing well if they can demonstrate this with concrete results. ‘

Bambi Semroc, from Conservation International: ‘We have 10 years to achieve the sustainable development goals and the agreements from the Paris climate agreement. It is up to the coffee industry to take the lead, stimulate investment and avoid the worst consequences of climate change by finding solutions that benefit people, nature and the quality of coffee. ‘

Coffee farmers

Many of the problems in coffee production are caused by a persistently low coffee price for farmers, according to the Coffee Barometer

They often live well below the poverty line, depending in part on the size of the farm, the productivity and the organization of the coffee industry in their region. This is in stark contrast to the billions made from coffee consumption. Those earnings are highly concentrated in the US and Europe. With their revenues falling, costs rising and the climate warming, the livelihoods of many small coffee farmers are threatened. This puts coffee farmers under constant pressure to cut costs. This is at the expense of wages and care for nature and the environment. It directly affects the needs of rural communities. COVID-19 only makes the situation worse. Due to the closure of offices and the catering industry, less coffee was consumed, which resulted in a production surplus of 1 million bags of coffee beans in 2020.

Photo credits: Hans Alting von Geusau

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