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Sustainable coffee: What it really means

This post was updated on September 17, 2020.

Have you ever wondered what the “sustainably grown” label on a bag of coffee beans means?

Growing coffee sustainably means conserving nature and providing better livelihoods for the people that produce it. Unsustainable coffee production contributes to deforestation, water contamination and the exploitation of workers.

Coffee farmers are increasingly having to deal with the effects of climate change, including higher temperatures and unpredictable rainfall patterns. To adapt, farmers are moving their farms to higher altitudes and investing in disease-resistant tree varieties. But these options are not enough — coffee farmers need more help.

Enter the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, an initiative launched by Conservation International and partners to make coffee the world’s first completely sustainable agricultural product by uniting all the players in the coffee sector — growers, traders, governments, NGOs, roasters and retailers — to stimulate greater demand for (and spark bigger investments in) sustainable coffee. Through the challenge, Conservation International and members including Starbucks and McDonald’s are working to increase transparency about investments in sustainability and address challenges facing the entire coffee industry. 

Get the full scoop on sustainable coffee here.

Olivia DeSmit is a former staff writer for Conservation International.

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