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Conservation International (C.I) has recently revealed through a report that the ethical sourcing program spearheaded by the giant coffee conglomerate Starbucks is producing more positive changes in the coffee sector than expected. The program which was created 20 years ago by Starbucks in collaboration with C.I is known as The Coffee and Farmer Equity(C.A.F.E) Practices program. Its primary objective was to improve the various outcomes for coffee farms which include the social, economic as well as environmental outcomes. Many other coffee-related enterprises such as coffee suppliers and coffee chains are aligning their strategies to the same sustainability goals and as a result sustainably grown coffee which can be verified has grown by over 64% from the year 2008.
Defining C.A.F.E. Practices program
A series of standards which were set back in the 1990s has resulted in the C.A.F.E Practices program. Starbucks at the time was coming up with an idea of how to establish some guidelines which would act as a measure for recognition, evaluation and even the rewarding of all producers of sustainably grown coffee. The idea of ethical sourcing at this time was unfamiliar. A collaboration was launched between the giant Starbucks and C.I for the coming up with the standards and guidelines that became C.A.F.E practices program which was launched in 2004.
Through the program, Starbucks was in a position to assess all the environmental, social and economic characteristics of the coffee entering its supply chain. This was based on a number of indicators numbering over 200. To this day, the revenues and living conditions of over a million farmers as well as farm workers have been affected both directly and indirectly as a result of the participation of coffee producers from over 23 countries in the program. Starbucks was the largest coffee retailer in the year 2015 having sourced 99% of its coffee supply ethically.
Experts from ethical sourcing programs all over the world are of the opinion that the C.A.F.E practices are the right way for coffee to be grown today. This at the end of the day translates to the consumer purchasing the finest cup of coffee available while at the same time providing support for coffee farmers and related workers. Research and resources from Starbucks are also shared across the world through Farmer Support Centers located in countries producing coffee. The centers can be accessed by all farmers irrespective of whether they trade with the coffee giant. The coffee giant has also helped Starbucks is also investing the farmers in the fighting of threats such as coffee leaf rust through its donations of millions of disease-resistant coffee trees. $ 50 million with the aim of financing the farmers hence according to them the opportunity to follow more sustainable practices as well as renovate their farms.
Positive Outcomes Generated Globally by C.A.F.E Practices
An interesting fact was also highlighted by the C.I report about Starbucks: The coffee giant influences a lot more coffee than it actually purchases. Despite making the purchase of around 5% of the world's supply of Arabica coffee in the year 2015, around 18% of that supply was produced in accordance with the C.A.F.E Practices. In 2017 it was reported that the practice was accounting for 26% of the world supply.
Global sustainability endeavors are being benefited greatly by the C.A.F.E Practices. 190,000 hectares in 23 countries have conserved as a result of embracing of the practices. More than 1.1 million workers are making more than the minimum wage while another 1.3 million workers have been given work in mills and farms under this program. According to the C.I report 99% of farms operating under the program have remained normal and have not converted any single natural forest into coffee production from the year 2004. These data findings have brought hope to the coffee industry which considered to be in trouble given the climate changes around the world and the increasing coffee demand.
It is the belief of many that at this crucial time strong positive results can be achieved in the coffee sector through sustainable strategies. More than three-quarter of all participants continue to stick C.A.F.E practices year after year. According to them, they witness a 14% improvement in their scores as a whole.
Sustainable coffee; The sole option of the future
The regions in the world that are home to the remaining tropical forests in the world are also the only areas where coffee is grown. Surrounding forests have been cut down by farmers who have needed to expand their coffee farms given the fact that it is relatively easy to do so. Erosion and sedimentation of waterways are some of the risks that can take place if proper care is not taken since coffee is grown on steep slopes. Contamination of streams and rivers is also a possibility given the fact coffee processing is very water intensive. Nature is prone to damage as a result of coffee production and cultivation and as a result, can be unsustainable.
More than 120 million people around the world depend on coffee as a source of their daily sustenance, many of them being farm workers and small-scale workers. The coffee market is also similar to other markets as buyers want to buy low and sell at high prices hence increasing their profit margins exponentially. The volatile nature of the coffee market has resulted in the exploitation of farmers and farm workers as prices in the market are maintained low artificially. Farmers hence have had to clear more forests, use low-quality pesticides and use cheap labor to clear some profit and meet the need of keeping low prices.
The lives of the 120 million people around the world relying on coffee will be improved through making coffee a sustainable product. Sustainability issues in the industry are however a significant challenge that cannot be resolved by a single company. All players in the coffee industry ranging from coffee traders, coffee producers, the government, roasters, and importers all need to come together to find the best possible solution. All players are part of building a sustainability road-map which can be used to achieve a fully sustainable coffee sector. A great example is a resolve to tackle the issue around aging trees and giving focus to support tree rehabilitation and tree replacement.
More and more coffee suppliers and coffee chains are participating in sustainability programs in various ways. These ways include implementing data platforms and innovative technology all with the aim of offering the coffee farmers financial empowerment while at the same tie sharing real-time data along the chain as a whole. Trace-ability types of technology are being used with the aim of ensuring there is transparency across the whole chain, ensure the positive impact to the farmers and also to gain the trust of the consumer who needs to know the story of the coffee beans and the journey as a whole from start to end.
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