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Report: Coffee companies pledge to tackle the bitter consequences of climate change

© Wikimedia Commons/jmacarthur0417

Freshly brewed, a new report on the future of sustainable coffee offers grounds for optimism. 

Released by the Sustainable Coffee Challenge — a Conservation International-led coalition of 160 partners — the report finds that a growing number of companies, non-governmental organizations and research institutions are dedicated to improving sustainability in the coffee industry. 

The report shows that Challenge partners made 38 new commitments to sustainability last year — that represents nearly 40 percent of the total 106 public commitments, which address some of the most urgent issues facing the coffee sector. Made by major coffee companies such as Dunkin’ and Starbucks, these commitments are aimed at tackling climate change, restoring forests and improving supply chains to protect nature.

“It’s no secret that encouraging marketwide change takes time and consistency,” said Raina Lang, senior director of sustainable coffee markets at Conservation International. “The Sustainable Coffee Challenge continues to strive toward the goal of making coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product.” 

In addition to climate threats — which could shrink suitable coffee-growing areas by half within three decades — the coffee industry has also suffered from increased market volatility in recent years, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is pushing trade prices below the cost of production in countries such as Peru and Guatemala. This directly threatens the incomes of farming communities, which are already vulnerable to poverty, poor health conditions and child labor violations.  

“To protect coffee, the industry must also protect those who grow and harvest it,” Lang said. “The more players working toward and advocating for sustainable practices, the better.”

In 2020, Challenge partners united around a 2050 goal to avoid 1.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions by increasing production on existing coffee lands. To help companies reach this goal, the report also offers opportunities for improvement in 2021 — including better collaboration between stakeholders and more public communication about the progress of goals and targets. 

“Transparent collaboration will continue to lead toward improved livelihoods and progress toward global climate and biodiversity commitments,” Lang said. “Companies must meet their goals to secure the future of coffee — and the jobs of millions of people who depend on it.” 

Read the full report here.


Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: Coffee beans (© Wikimedia Commons/jmacarthur0417)

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