Promoting sustainable structures together

Many of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers could operate more produc­tively and sustainably given a modern infras­tructure or affordable loans. That is why we work with regional, national and inter­na­tional protag­o­nists from the coffee industry in cross-sector initia­tives such as the Sustainable Coffee Programme (SCP) for better condi­tions in the producing countries. In early 2015, the SCP and other alliances and programmes in the coffee sector strengthened their network through a joint decla­ration.

There are a variety of challenges to achieving sustainable devel­opment in the coffee industry in the producing countries, which cannot be solved by the coffee farmers and their local organ­i­sa­tions alone. In particular, to improve market access for remote coffee farms, the infras­tructure in the countries of origin must be upgraded. This goes not only for transport, but also for infor­mation and commu­ni­cation networks and the power supply. It is also important to offer farmers investment oppor­tu­nities to facil­itate their transition to new technologies. A political framework for environ­men­tally and socially respon­sible farming is also needed. In many cases, there are still no clear regula­tions, e.g. for a reliable water supply or the protection of ecosystems. With the SCP and the Inter­na­tional Coffee Partners (ICP) initiative, we are working at a higher level on improving such framework condi­tions.

Sustainable Coffee Programme: Business and politics pull together

In 2012 inter­na­tional coffee roasters joined forces in the SCP to jointly address struc­tural challenges. The main objective is to increase yields and export volumes of sustainably produced coffees. Govern­mental organ­i­sa­tions, NGOs and other national stake­holders collab­orate on country-specific activ­ities in the programme, which origi­nated as a Dutch government initiative called “Initi­atief Duurzame Handel” (Sustainable Trade Initiative - IDH). The IDH is committed to promoting respon­sible trade in raw materials and indus­trial products from devel­oping countries and coordi­nates the inter­na­tional activ­ities required for this. Its activ­ities focus on goods such as cocoa, tea, soy, tropical woods, cotton, coffee and palm oil, as well as finished clothing and electronics products.

Tchibo is a founding member of the SCP and is repre­sented on its Steering Committee with the other partic­i­pating roasters, the European Coffee Feder­ation (umbrella organ­i­sation) and the devel­opment aid organ­i­sation HIVOS. As an important syndicate of protag­o­nists from industry and politics in the world coffee market – it includes the roasters with the world's largest market volume – the SCP has consid­erable reach.

Investment in national devel­opment projects

For Tchibo the struc­turally oriented SCP initia­tives are a useful complement to its own Tchibo Joint Forces!® programme. They contribute to the fact that the coffee sector in general is becoming more sustainable. The programme phase running from 2010 to 2015 focused on six of the ten largest coffee-producing countries: Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, Colombia, Ethiopia and Uganda. For each country, the SCP identifies measures that contain great potential for a more sustainable green coffee culti­vation. At the same time, it indicates ways of overcoming potential obstacles. The SCP’s activ­ities include:

  • Helping to establish an associ­ation under private law for the coffee industry;
  • Promoting the official recog­nition of local standards, such as Certifica Minas Café from Brazil, within the framework of the 4C standards
  • Promoting programmes for better adapting coffee culti­vation better to changing weather condi­tions

By the end of the programme phase that expires in 2015, the SCP hopes to have reached a total of 500,000 coffee farmers. From 2010 to 2015, 25 million US dollars will have been invested in more than 80 projects in the producing countries, and in the further devel­opment of coffee supply chains. In addition, inter­na­tional donors are involved in other programme activ­ities. They often provide crucial seed money for local projects. The allocation of funds is reviewed by an independent committee, local experts and the coordi­nators of the national programmes.

Memorandum for inten­sified cooper­ation

One important milestone on the road to the sustainable trans­for­mation of the coffee sector was reached in early 2015. In March, the 4C Associ­ation as an organ­i­sation of the private sector and civil society, the Inter­na­tional Coffee Organ­i­sation (ICO) as an inter­gov­ern­mental organ­i­sation of production and consumption countries, and the IDH as a coordi­nator of donor agencies signed a Memorandum of Under­standing. It creates closer links between the various alliances and protag­o­nists in the coffee sector, who also commit to promoting sustainable devel­opment in the coffee-producing countries. At the same time, by signing the memorandum, they have laid the founda­tions for involving more partners. They aim to support their members and partners with a joint secre­tariat, define a joint public-private agenda for a sustainable coffee sector, and coordinate the resulting activ­ities at national and global level.

Inter­na­tional Coffee Partners: Partner­ships in key regions

The ICP initiative, in which the leading European roasters and green coffee traders joined forces in 2001, also relies on overar­ching cooper­ation. True to the principle of “helping people to help themselves” it wants to lastingly improve the living condi­tions of small­holders based on sustainable farming practices. As a founding member, Tchibo has supported the ICP from the beginning.

The ICP is active in twelve countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In 2014 Vietnam was added. The projects are aimed directly at small­holders, their families and commu­nities. Local and inter­na­tional devel­opment organ­i­sa­tions, the public author­ities, NGOs and producers’ repre­sen­ta­tives are involved. The ICP plans to build long-term partner­ships with farmers in three key coffee-growing regions: Mbeya in Tanzania, Minas Gerais in Brazil and Trifinio, a border region between Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Six projects are currently underway; 14 have been completed since 2001. The ICP has reached more than 30,000 farmers and over 200,000 family members to date. On average, the project partic­i­pants were able to double their revenues from the sale of coffee; some even tripled their income. 25 ICP projects with more than 60,000 farmers and 400,000 family members are to be realised by 2018.