USAID, Global Coffee Platform Launch Sustainable Coffee Dialogues to Cut Industry Emissions

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October 11, 2021 (BANGKOK) – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Green Invest Asia project and Global Coffee Platform (GCP) launched on October 6th the first of seven virtual industry Sustainable Coffee Dialogues that convene companies across the coffee value chain to collaborate on reducing sector-wide greenhouse gas emissions.

Organizers called for joint action to respond to a worsening climate crisis that threatens to disrupt the coffee supply chain. Global coffee demand is expected to triple by 2050, raising pressure on forests and other habitats in the tropical regions where it is grown as farmers look for new land to till.

“Deforestation may be seen as a risk… however, there are also opportunities,” said Carlos Brando, GCP’s chairman, highlighting possibilities to diversify the number of productive coffee-producing countries from the small handful that supply most of the world’s coffee, increase the planting of shade trees to reduce emissions, and to pursue voluntary carbon reduction commitments. “Pre-competitive action is the best action to advance sustainability,” said Brando, referring to when competitors co-create solutions to address shared challenges, from which no one company gains a competitive advantage over another.

Collaboration over competition

“It is becoming clear that there should not be a competition about who has the best [carbon measurement] tool, but what impact we are creating [as an industry] towards decarbonization of the coffee sector,” said Stefan Canz, Global Manager of Coffee and Cocoa for Farmer Connect, Nestlé’s global sustainability training program. “This level of alignment is immensely important and this can only be done in a pre-competitive way,” said Canz, stressing the need for common sustainability standards across companies to help suppliers – many who sell to multiple roasters – understand, measure, and reduce carbon footprints.

Changing how coffee is grown, transported and consumed can reduce carbon emissions and help corporates – and the countries where they work – meet global warming caps under the Paris Agreement. A 2021 USAID-funded carbon footprint study conducted with JDE Peet’s and four of its suppliers found that climate-smart cultivation could lead to carbon-neutral, or even carbon-negative coffee on a number of farms in Vietnam, the world’s 2nd largest producer of coffee.

One of JDE Peet’s suppliers and leading coffee exporters in Vietnam, Simexco Daklak, learned through participating in the study that intercropping (planting non-coffee crops and shade or fruit trees alongside coffee in the same plantation) and reduced use of chemical fertilizers reduced greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain by more than 60 percent over five years.  Simexco’s General Director Le Duc Huy said the task is now to scale the case study from its “500 farmers to 500,000 farmers nationwide” to achieve net-zero emissions coffee.

Scaling low-carbon coffee sector-wide is feasible, noted Aaron Brownell, Director of the Regional Environment Office for USAID’s Asia office.  Some 75 percent of coffee production is concentrated in only five countries, and half the trade is handled by five companies, according to the 2020 Coffee Barometer. The global supply chain is closely tied to 10 multinational roasters that represent over 35 percent of global trade in green coffee.

“What this concentration in production and processing means is that participants in this forum effectively control market signals going to millions of coffee farms worldwide,” said Brownell. “You have the power to send a unified signal that sustainability is not a niche, but rather a critical necessity in today’s marketplace.”

Upcoming Sustainable Coffee Dialogues

The first dialogue event recording is available in English and Vietnamese.

Based on an industry survey of actors along the coffee supply chain in Southeast Asia, upcoming dialogues to be held every two months will focus on intercropping (November 24), carbon accounting methodologies and low-carbon coffee production basics (January 26, 2022), monitoring solutions (March 30), climate finance (May 25), pre-competitive collaboration to develop common criteria for sustainable coffee (July 27),  low-carbon coffee trends and identifying joint impact initiatives (September 28).

For more information, please contact USAID Green Invest Asia’s Partnerships and Sustainability Manager, Nichapat Na Thalang, at [email protected], or Global Coffee Platform in Vietnam, Nhung Doan, at [email protected].

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