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In December 2015 at the UN Climate Change Conference, Conservation International (CI) announced the launch of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge – a call to action to make coffee the first sustainable agricultural product in the world. The announcement came as 195 governments gathered to write a new climate agreement and as momentum built for businesses to take direct action to combat climate change. Over a period of 100 days, CI formalized engagement with partners in the Challenge and developed a plan to drive the industry toward sustainability. The initial plan of action was unveiled March 2016 at the 4th World Coffee Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Sustainable Coffee Challenge comes at a time when nearly every major coffee-producing region of the world is feeling the impacts of climate change. Though consumer demand continues to increase — people drink 600 billion cups of coffee every year, and the coffee industry is a US$ 22 billion global business — warming temperatures, drought and changing weather patterns are negatively affecting coffee production, and endangering a sustainable future supply. As the Challenge continues to develop, it will stimulate further investment in economic development across the industry and benefit the lives of 25 million coffee producers, the majority of whom are small-scale farmers. It will also provide environmental benefits, including the conservation of vital forests that help fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as protect freshwater resources.

The Sustainability Framework Working Group, now the Joint Progress Sustainabilty Framework Working Group, has been working to develop a common sustainability framework for the coffee sector. This draft framework consists of five key components:


  • Compass Points, formerly known as "North Star Elements," to serve as a guiding tool for the sector and enable us to align at the highest level.
  • Common Impacts + Outcomes that demonstrate the coffee sector's contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and ensures alignment.
  • A common Definition of Success that establishes clear targets for the coffee sector for 2030 and clarifies the role of demand in driving the transition to sustainability.
  • Intervention Pathways for 15 interventions, including key assumptions.
  • Theory of Change for how the contributions of the various interventions work together to get us closer to our desired outcomes and impacts.​​

Requesting Input and Feedback

The draft sustainability framework will allow us to better understand how the investments and actions we are making to spark greater demand for sustainability within the coffee sector contribute to a common set of outcomes - improve livelihoods, conserve nature and sustain supply. Having a common framework will enable us to more effectively communicate about our efforts, to track our progress, identify what else is needed, and stimulate new partnerships and actions that stimulate demand and promote consumption of sustainable coffee and transitions the entire coffee sector to sustainable production.​ We welcome your feedback and input for how to make it better and more useful. ​Please download the full framework​ and provide feedback in one of the following ways:

Our Compass

The industry has a part to play in reversing climate change. Halting deforestation globally – including through fostering sustainable farming practices in coffee production – can provide more than 30% of the carbon sequestration and storage needed to limit global temperature rise to safe levels.

The Challenge is convening the sector to strengthen market demand, sustain supply, improve livelihoods and conserve nature. These elements make up our Compass. We measure all of our efforts against it. By encouraging organizations to align around these compass points, the Sustainable Coffee Challenge will focus our partners’ collective efforts to change the coffee industry. ​


Definition of Success

Meeting future demand for coffee could require tripling production by 2050. This means producing between 4 and 14 million more tons of coffee and tripling productivity on the existing coffee farms to avoid expansion into forest areas. We believe that this is possible. We will have achieved our vision of making coffee the first sustainable agricultural product when ALL coffee is produced according to sustainable practices.

Common Impacts and Outcomes

The SDGs present an opportunity to demonstrate the contribution of coffee to sustainable development. Common outcomes serve as a stepping stone between our interventions and the SDGs and​ Compass.

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EditCircle color:fact--color-5E9741    
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EditResult value:Improve
EditResult field:Livelihoods
  • Improved labor conditions (wages, rights, health and safety)
  • Increased access to education
  • Increased access to medical services
  • Increased representation of women, youth and minorities in value chain and community


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EditCircle icon:icon-forest
EditResult value:Conserve
EditResult field:Nature
  • Professionalism among farmers and cooperatives (farmer organization)
  • Increased adoption of good, climate smart agricultural practices
  • Improved farm and mill infrastructure
  • Improved market access
  • Improved prices received for coffee


EditCircle color:fact--color-677782    
EditCircle icon:C3Aicn-coffeebeans
EditResult value:Sustain
EditResult field:Supply
  • Increased adoption of water conservation practices
  • Increased adoption of soil conservation practices
  • Increased conservation of primary forest and other high conservation value areas
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
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Theory of Change and the Inter​vention Pathways

​The coffee sector is investing in a number of interventions aimed at addressing the key challenges facing coffee. These interventions can be grouped around the Compass, with market demand acting as a driver of investments into the compass points.

Together we identified 15 d​ifferent intervention pathways that represent areas of current investment and/or priorities for the future.  For each intervention pathway we have developed a detailed theory of change to help guide future investments. Find the intervention pathways in the draft sustainability framework download.

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EditCaption Title:About the Challenge
EditCaption Description:Learn about the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, our partners and how to get involved.
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EditCaption Title:Commitments
EditCaption Description:Understand the kinds of commitments being made by organizations across the industry and how they will contribute to our goal of making coffee the first sustainable agricultural product.
EditRead More Text:Read More
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EditCaption Title:Sustainability Framework
EditCaption Description:See how the Challenge will help innovate the coffee industry
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EditCaption Title:Commitments Network
EditCaption Description:Join the Challenge and state your commitment to make coffee sustainable
EditRead More Text:Join the Challenge
EditRead More Link: [Optional]
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