Sustainability in the Coffee Industry

Coffee sacks
Photo by Diego Catto on Unsplash

To discuss sustainability in the coffee industry, it needs to be clear that paying a higher price for premium coffee is not the definition of sustainability. It's how the law of economics works. 

The words ‘sustainability’ and ‘coffee’ are not just paired when referencing the high level of paper coffee cup disposals. From consumer to the farmer, the whole coffee industry has been in a cyclical battle of sustainability; of being the perpetrator of unsustainable practices, while also being the victim of the ensuing negative impacts. Here is a quick rundown on some of the challenges that the coffee industry faces.

Environmental Sustainability

The issues of sustainability extend right back to production. Tasks such as growing and processing involve a high use of water. So much so, that reports indicate that, on average, a 125ml cup of coffee uses 140 litres of water throughout the various stages of production. This problem is exacerbated when one considers the decreasing rainfall in several regions that produce coffee. The increasing volatility of rainfall levels, along with the volatility of growing particular coffee varieties, puts stress on the sustainability of the environment.

Social Sustainability

Many of the key origins of specialty coffee are developing nations; countries that have a high level of poverty, not to mention a lack of government stability, economic strength and social support (structures that are usually taken for granted in developed countries). That being said, coffee production has come to be not just a primary export of these developing nations but has also come to be the sole source of income for many producers from such nations. With the volatility of the industry and the interrelated environmental factors, the structures of healthcare, education, housing and other supports for the producers are at risk. As consumers, we should be prioritising how we can be purchasing a coffee product that can financially support such coffee producers as directly as possible. With this kind of support, farmers will not just be able to provide for their families and strengthen their livelihoods, but they will also be incentivised to keep providing a good quality product to consumers. 

Thankfully, there are a growing number of coffee farmers, intermediaries and organisations that are leading the way with maintaining standards of sustainability within the industry. These certifications can be used as the benchmark of the sustainable system to tackle the challenges mentioned above. By supporting and purchasing such certified products, you will be making a valuable contribution to the solution that we need to see. Here are some of the certifications:

  • Organic: On top of being free from the use of synthetic pesticides, the term ‘organic’ within the coffee industry also involves action to minimise the excessive erosion of land.
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified: The Rainforest Alliance stands for the farmers that are committed to maintaining ecological harmony, using water in a sustainable manner and empowering local children (rather than using child labour).
  • FairTrade Certified: An international body that ensures that a minimum price per pound is given to the farmer. The support that FairTrade provides is reinforcement to the social and economic progress that is made in developing countries. 

However, such certifications are not the norm for sustainability in the specialty coffee industry. Thus the consumers need to rely heavily on trust in cafés and roasteries, and coffee roasters on the green importers. One way to build this trust is by having transparency coffee trading. It's a system where coffee roasters and green importers disclose the purchase price of green coffee and other support they are given to the coffee producers..

Rozali Coffee is proud to be working closely with respected green buyers and sustainable producers from around the globe. From the farm to the cafe, we ensure that our coffee product is of not just the utmost quality, but the highest levels of sustainability.