Sustainability on stage.
“Sustainability. Do we say it too much?” COSA’s President and Co-Founder Danielle Giovannucci asked during his keynote speech at this year’s edition of Sintercafé.
Maybe we do. This word is everpresent in coffee marketing, debates, and events. The real question is, are we practicing what we preach?
During World of Coffee, Sintercafé, Let’s Talk Coffee, and the International Coffee Week in Brazil we presented the 2018 Coffee Barometer, which indicates that, although the coffee industry’s value is roughly $200 billion, only $350 million are invested in sustainability efforts. Individual company actions, like Starbucks’ commitment to providing 100 million trees to farmers by 2025, are contributing to changes throughout the sector. Nonetheless, these actions can have a greater impact when other actors collaborate.
Greater impact through collaboration
On day two of Let’s Talk Coffee, we announced our new Individual Project Transforming Mexican Coffee, which brings together Sustainable Harvest, World Coffee Research, the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture (SAGARPA), and COSA. This project will directly benefit 2000 family farms, and close to 10000 individuals, by providing farmers with access to cutting-edge science, technology, and training in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, while connecting them to specialty markets.
On a smaller scale, MAKAIA is leading a project that will create “Innovation Labs” in two schools and farms, install IoT devices in five farms, and implement an information and data-based platform with tools and information sources and practices adapted to the farmer’s needs in the Meta region of Colombia. Lavazza Foundation, ALO&Partners, Microsoft Colombia, and Carcafé are the other project members.
Another challenge we face is finding ways to share experiences between projects to improve the efforts made. As SAFE’s Manager, Juan Pablo Solís puts it: “projects usually work in isolation. They know what they are doing, but not what others are achieving. Sharing information allows each implementor and organization to be self-critical and reflect on why certain things work and others don’t in each context. It’s fundamental to understand that one person or organization can’t provide solutions to all the obstacles faced in a community, much less the entire value chain.”
But, aren’t we already doing that?
The Coffee Barometer highlights how new multi-stakeholder initiatives are allowing companies and organizations to pool their resources, share knowledge and develop joint strategies to address complex sustainability issues. It also stresses that there isn’t an immediate translation of voluntary intentions into actions, as decision-making processes are usually slow, while urgency to act remains high.
New ideas germinate, new actions sprout, and yet, investments in sustainability still aren’t covering all the sector’s needs. We should ask if all the right voices are present (and listened to) in these spaces. This topic will be further discussed in an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, we can think of working with other relevant actors that can make our ideas and investments more impactful and sustainable.