Human nature is funny, isn’t it? Think about the way you react to the word ‘sustainability’. Most people fall into one of four broad camps: passionately aware; commercially aware; unaware; or dismissive. In the world of commercial coffee, we hope that the commercial implications of sustainability on the world of coffee should make you a passionate supporter if you weren’t already.
Coffee has local and global economic and environmental sustainability implications. Its successful growth and distribution is also affected by everything from climate change to community poverty. At a very basic level, this affects the price you pay for your coffee beans and the price you levy on a latte.
Sustainability directly and indirectly affects your business and its profitability
Just think about it.
Your business provides commercial rent, local and national tax income, employment opportunities, and contributes to the local lifestyle, with a knock-on economic and social effect on your immediate neighbourhood.
Your choice of takeaway cups – their materials and any branding or printed messages – has a direct impact (or ideally, lack of impact) on your street scene, council litter clearing costs, the local environment and wildlife and, potentially, even on regional, national and international wildlife.
The coffee you choose – whether it’s Fairtrade-certified, whether you develop a relationship with the farming commune – has far-reaching benefits in terms of jobs, security of income, support for farmers against natural disasters and adverse climate change. It also, inevitably, has an environmental impact because of the great distances involved in transport. That’s a good reason in itself to get involved in offsetting some of that carbon and/or favouring environmentally friendly packaging and serving materials.
Coffee is the second most traded commodity on earth, after oil
It’s completely dependent on the right climate and the right ecosystem. Global warming’s impact could reduce South America’s viable coffee-growing regions by as much as 88% by 2015, according to a recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Coffee also grows better and with a richer yield when the area is well populated with insect pollinators like bees. All over the world, certain species of bees are in decline. On the flipside, as this study discusses, if you can increase bee populations in suitable habitats, there’s the potential to offset some of the change brought about by global warming.
Now, your own impact on global warming is near negligible – and perhaps that’s why most people don’t change their lifestyles – but every little bit does help. From picking environmentally friendly takeaway coffee cups to choosing electricity providers sourcing only renewable energy, to buying Fairtrade coffee which supports sustainable coffee farming and protects livelihoods.
For more information on the environmental, social and economic sustainability issues in coffee, we recommend reading the British Coffee Association’s first ever report: Sustainability mission and objectives.