New initiative aims to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product

Conservation International / photo by Miguel Ángel de la Cueva

At the UN climate negotiations, Conservation International (CI) announced the launch of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge – a call to make coffee the first sustainable agricultural product in the world.

The announcement comes as ministers gather to write a new climate agreement and as momentum builds for businesses to take direct action to combat climate change.

The Challenge aims to transform coffee production, moving speciality and mainstream producers towards sustainability. It will convene industry, conservation and agricultural development partners to develop a common framework for sustainability in the coffee sector. Over the next 100 days, CI will formulise a plan to drive the industry towards total sustainability. The initial plan of action will be unveiled to coincide with the 4th World Coffee Conference next March in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Currently, nearly half of the world’s coffee is being produced according to a sustainability standard, a figure that does not yet account for a number of recent significant investments made by the sector to support farmers in their transition to more sustainable practices. Yet only 12 per cent was sold as sustainable coffee in the market. The Challenge will work to strengthen demand for sustainably produced coffee and better account for progress made within the sector.

As the plan goes into effect, the Challenge will stimulate economic development across the industry and benefit the lives of 25 million coffee producers, the majority of whom are small-scale farmers. It will also provide myriad environmental benefits, including the conservation of vital forests that help fight climate change.