Best Tchibo coffees – Now and into the future

Tchibo has offered its customers top quality coffee for over 60 years. Flavour and taste are very important to us – and we want to live up to this aspiration in future as well. That is why we are committed to maintaining and contin­ually improving the condi­tions for the culti­vation of high-quality coffees. We work with coffee farmers and standards organ­i­sa­tions to promote sustainable, yield-increasing farming practices. We are also involved in cooper­ation across organ­i­sa­tions and borders – as many struc­tural challenges in the coffee industry can only be resolved by working together.

Tchibo is on its way to becoming a 100% sustainable business. So in the medium term, we want to offer only coffee qualities whose culti­vation complies with economic, ecological and social require­ments in equal measure. This is the only way we can contribute to safeguarding the liveli­hoods of coffee farmers and their families. That is why we take a compre­hensive approach to advocating the sustainable devel­opment of the coffee supply chain and the entire coffee sector.

Ensuring the highest quality - Supporting producers on the ground

Tchibo coffee is charac­terised by the highest standards of quality and freshness. We use the best beans from high-quality Arabica coffee plants for our coffee. For our Espresso range of products we also use Robusta coffee to achieve the ‘typical’ espresso flavour. The beans are grown in the ‘coffee belt’ along the equator in South and Central America, Africa and Asia – mostly in devel­oping and emerging countries. In order to offer our customers consis­tently high-quality coffee, we maintain good, longstanding supplier relation­ships with exporters and traders from the producing countries. Our coffee experts are regularly on-site to ensure the quality of the green coffee and inform themselves about growing condi­tions.

One special feature of the coffee sector is the high proportion of small­holders among the producers. Four-fifths of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers generally cultivate less than two hectares of land each. To secure their liveli­hoods, they usually grow other agricul­tural products besides coffee or lease out their land and work additional jobs. Their resources are as limited as their access to knowledge, technology and financial resources. Many lack expertise in environ­men­tally friendly growing methods that prevent long-term soil exhaustion. As a result, their yields diminish over time and the quality of the green coffee suffers. In the long run, this jeopar­dises the coffee farmers’ liveli­hoods. Given these condi­tions, young people in particular lack incen­tives to continue growing coffee. So to achieve sustainable devel­opment in the coffee sector, it is crucial to improve the situation of small­holders in the growing regions.

Achieving sustainable coffee culti­vation, step by step

With this in mind, our approach to sustainable devel­opment in the coffee sector begins with the small­holders. In particular, we help them to safeguard the quality of their green coffee and increase their yields. Only then will they eventually be in a situation to convert their opera­tions to more sustainable farming practices. We see this evolution among the coffee farmers as a gradual process whose aim is sustainable coffee farming in the spirit of Tchibo’s sustain­ability concept. Specif­i­cally, this means:

  • The income from culti­vating coffee enables present and future gener­a­tions of farmers to earn a living and provide their families with a good standard of living (economic sustain­ability).
  • The coffee farmers safeguard the ecological bases of culti­vation such as soil fertility and the water supply (environ­mental sustain­ability). They are equipped with the necessary knowledge to adapt to the reper­cus­sions of climate change (environ­mental sustain­ability).
  • Their integration and involvement in production and marketing cooper­a­tives facil­i­tates coffee farmers’ market access and the transfer of knowledge, e.g. about farming methods (social sustain­ability). At the same time, we support the devel­opment and testing of models that contribute to more stable local social struc­tures, for instance through educa­tional programmes for women and children.

Our strategic approaches

We want to contribute to making sure that more and more coffee farmers meet these criteria and include all Tchibo coffees in our sustain­ability concept in the medium term. To achieve this, our efforts include:

  • Training small­holders as part of our Tchibo Joint Forces!® training programme
  • Increasing the sourcing of green coffee that is validated and certified according to recog­nised standards, and
  • Cross-sector collab­o­ration to address and solve struc­tural challenges.

Tchibo Joint Forces!®: Joining forces to offer quali­fi­cation programmes

Most small­holders lack the necessary know-how to make their businesses more sustainable. Therefore, since 2012 with the Tchibo Joint Forces!® (TJF) quali­fi­cation programme together with local partners we have offered coffee farmers special training sessions. In five consec­utive modules, we teach them how they can increase their produc­tivity, profitability and product quality. All coffee farmers who success­fully complete the programme receive additional validation or certi­fi­cation according to the require­ments of the relevant inter­na­tionally recog­nised standards organ­i­sa­tions, the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, UTZ Certified or 4C Associ­ation. As a result they meet important ecological and social require­ments and improve their marketing oppor­tu­nities.

By the end of 2014, around 30,000 coffee farmers from six countries had already achieved certi­fi­cation or validation by partic­i­pating in the Tchibo Joint Forces!® programme. Tchibo benefits as well: we offer the project partic­i­pants a long-term collab­o­ration that also includes buying the sustainable raw coffee on fair terms. We are currently planning two more Tchibo Joint Forces!® projects in Brazil and Guatemala. (Tchibo Joint Forces!® Quali­fi­cation Programme)

Inter­na­tionally recog­nised standards for more sustainable coffee culti­vation

We can positively influence the expansion of sustainable growing practices by purchasing raw coffee from farms that have been certified or validated by inter­na­tionally recog­nised standards organ­i­sa­tions. When selecting these organ­i­sa­tions, we are careful to ensure that their require­ments are coordi­nated in dialogue with all the relevant stake­holders and are contin­ually evolved. They must also actively support local farmers in the imple­men­tation of their standards. We currently purchase raw coffees that are certified compliant with the criteria of the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, UTZ Certified and the EU Bio label organ­i­sa­tions, or validated according to the baseline standards of the 4C Associ­ation. We have increased the share of validated and certified green coffee we process from 8% in 2008 to around 35% in 2014. Our goal for 2015 is a further increase to 40%. (Purchasing sustainable green coffee grades)

Alliances for better condi­tions

We work closely with regional, national and inter­na­tional protag­o­nists in the coffee industry to create the condi­tions for more sustainable coffee production at a struc­tural level as well. Together we work to improve the infras­tructure in the producing countries, facil­itate coffee farmers' access to credit and markets, and provide them with knowledge on how to handle climate change. In our cross-sector approach we pursue three prior­ities to improve the situation for coffee farmers:

  • Cooper­ation to promote sustainable farming methods
  • Initia­tives to protect the environment and slow down climate change
  • Educa­tional projects in the regions of origin

Among other things, we partic­ipate in the Sustainable Coffee Programme (SCP), an alliance of major stake­holders from politics, industry, associ­a­tions and NGOs. It is based on a Dutch government initiative (Initi­atief Duurzame Handel – IDH) and develops region-specific approaches to solving struc­tural challenges in the coffee-growing countries, such as small­holders’ access to knowledge about good agricul­tural practice, or market condi­tions. Tchibo is a founding member of the SCP and is repre­sented on the Steering Committee alongside other coffee sector companies. The objective of the SCP is to further network the different alliances and programmes in the coffee sector. (Cooper­ation to promote sustainable farming methods)

The struc­tural challenges in the coffee sector are exacer­bated by climate change. In order to achieve good long-term returns from high-quality green coffee, coffee farmers must adapt their farming practices to the conse­quences of global warming. Temper­ature increases lead not only to erosion, landslides and water shortages, but also to increased infes­tation of plants by pests and diseases. Therefore, more resistant coffee plants and optimised farming methods are needed, for example. We are working with other companies in the coffee industry, standards organ­i­sa­tions, and small­holders who have already undergone training to pass on the required knowledge to other coffee producers. To this end, we have partic­i­pated in the Coffee & Climate devel­opment partnership since it was founded in 2010. (Environment & Climate)

Education is a key contributor to improving the living condi­tions of coffee farmers and their families. That is why, as part of its social commitment, Tchibo has launched education projects with selected partners in the producing countries of Guatemala and Kenya according to the principle of ‘helping people to help themselves’. The offers are addressed at coffee farmers and their families.(Educa­tional projects at source)