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Sustainable Coffee Challenge


Some weeks ago I conducted an interview with Bambi Semroc, the senior strategic advisor at CI (Conservation International)’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, and we talked about the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.


The Sustainable Coffee Challenge is an initiative from CI and aims to make coffee the World’s first sustainable agricultural product. In sum, they want to get together all the initiatives already existing for coffee and create an online Platform where supply chain actors, such as roasters, traders, etc, can expose their current work and future targets. All this information is publicly available so that everyone can get better informed on what is already going on and what is lacking in the market.


Their goal: The Sustainable Coffee Challenge convenes, unites and urges the coffee sector and conservation partners across the industry to spur the actions and investments necessary to make coffee the first sustainable agriculture product in the world. The Challenge is committed to stimulating demand for sustainable coffee across the value chain, from the policymaking level to the final consumer. By encouraging demand for sustainable coffee, it leads to investments that enable the transition to a sustainable production and ensuring the coffee we drink is a sustainable product.


The interview:


As I understood the platform will keep data from projects description, targets and impact, correct?

This is one part of it; there are a lot of activities going on. The aim is to make people aware of what’s being developed so that new actors can get involved and also to show visibility of who is doing what.


How does the platform plan to stimulate demand for sustainable coffee? And by that, do you mean certified coffee or also coffee being produced under assistance from a Development Initiative?

All of these programs should count. There are other paths to certification, as for example the program “Coffee Made Happy" but unfortunately, most of the times, if farmers don't have a formal certification then their coffee is not counted as sustainable.

Regarding the demand for sustainably produced coffee, it can come from the consumer market but we think it's also important to come from governments and other NGOS making more investments in the coffee sector.


Is the platform going to make external acts, for example marketing campaigns to disclose the initiatives?

Yes, we are working together with the Global Coffee Platform as their Advisory Consul. We have an open share policy and the commitments posted on the Platform are a way to share the goals with the entire market.


Can every market player share his or her commitment regardless of size?

We haven’t distinguished from the size yet and that’s actually a big problem we are trying to solve since we want to help all Projects and Initiatives to become more transparent.  


How can independent initiatives, as for example small roasters doing Direct Trade, be on the platform? Since most of the time they don’t follow pre-defined concepts or rules as other Development Initiatives.

All of these programs could be considered sustainability programs but they have to show official reports in order to be on the Platform. Although they can have self-assessed reports to show the impact of their actions, it is still necessary to communicate that they are not third party verified and then it's up to the consumer to decide what they think about it.


Finally, how can you address final consumers in order to increase demand for sustainable coffee?

This question comes up a lot and consumers play a role on that but, unfortunately, we have experienced that this role is not enough to sponsor significant improvements in the sector and it is better to talk directly to roasters and other market players. In the end, most people are still not ready to pay more for coffee only to sponsor a sustainable initiative.


It was nice talking to her and learning more about this Initiative, looking forward to hear more about their development. 

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