Coffee and climate: industry and NGOs meet

July 7, 2014

Climate change puts coffee production under great strain: development organisations, private sector and certifiers are now feeling the urgent need to increase their collaboration. This is one of the results of the Sustainable Coffee Conference ‘The heat is on’, organised by Hivos on 3 July in Amsterdam.

The days when NGOs and companies in the coffee industry were not on speaking terms are long gone, but often they lack a shared understanding of and approaches to sustainability. This became apparent at the conference during a short public interview between Frank Mechielsen of Oxfam Novib and Linda Butler, sustainability manager at Nestlé. Whereas Mechielsen stressed that we should, above all, increase sustainable production, and continuously improve the level of sustainable production practices, Butler replied that we have to ensure that farmers are convinced of the need to actually produce according to sustainability standards. Of Nestlé’s total coffee production, 7% carries the Nespresso AAA verified coffee label – and 23% the 4C ‘entry level’ minimum standard for sustainable production.

This kind of direct discussion set the tone for vibrant encounters throughout the day. Civil society organisations, certifiers and a significant representation of the coffee industry responded to the launch of the bi-annual Coffee Barometer, a report that stimulates transparency on trends and sustainability developments in the coffee industry. All participants recognise that climate change will make coffee production impossible in the future in many areas currently still suitable because of the delicate balance between temperature and rainfall coffee beans need – and which global warming disrupts.

The conference saw many ideas and initiatives presented for diversifying production and responding to the challenges of climate change. However, all too often they involved small, isolated projects, while the challenges we face are enormous: “This requires a much higher level of ambition in terms of plans and actions that focus on not only short term, but especially the longer term. This also means we have to look for more effective cooperation and scaling up of successful initiatives,” said Carol Gribnau, head of the Green Entrepreneurship programme at Hivos. “We can and must continue to learn from each other. Together we can raise the bar and reach a scale that truly changes the situation at farm level in a positive direction.”

For more information about the conference, including the report, presentations, graphic harvesting and photos (to be published soon), go to hivos.org/coffee.