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Coffee Sustainability in Action

b-coffee-farmers-origin-countries2Since launching our Sustainability Mission in 2018, sustainability has been front of mind for the British Coffee Association and the work we do with our members. Our aim is to support and firmly establish a sustainable culture among our members by encouraging innovation and change throughout the entire supply chain, both as part of the manufacturing process and resulting products as well as encouraging sustainable practices in origin countries.

As part of our work we published a report – Bean to Bin and Beyond – outlining three of the priority areas we are currently focused on:

  1. Working towards a circular economy
  2. Driving responsible sourcing practices
  3. Improving the long-term resilience of coffee farming

Since the publication of this report, our members have been making a big impact in these areas. This month, we spoke to three of them to find out what they’ve been up to and how they are helping us reach our goal of ensuring we have a thriving and sustainable coffee industry, both now and in the future.

Working Towards a Circular Economy and Reducing Waste – spotlight on Costa Coffee, Step Up to the Food Plate

Food waste is an environmental, moral and financial wrongdoing. An estimated 800 million people in the world do not have enough to eat, and food waste is also a huge contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, we allow around 10 million tonnes of food and drink every year go to waste.

Costa Coffee is one of several early signatories to WRAP’s ‘Step Up to the Plate’ pledge, which launched in May 2019 and aims to halve UK food waste by 2030. Costa is continuously reviewing how to reduce food waste across their stores. Actions include discounting food due to expire at midnight by 50% during the last hour of trading at all stores and encouraging its store teams to directly donate surplus products to local charities.

Costa was also the first UK coffee chain to partner with Too Good To Go, which is now available in over 100 Costa Coffee stores across the UK. The Too Good To Go app is the first app of its kind in the UK that enables customers to search for unsold food at a reduced price from retail stores. In a bid to reduce food waste partnering with Too Good to Go has seen fantastic results saving over 5,000 meals from being wasted. Any food that cannot be redistributed through these channels is sent to anaerobic digestion facilities, where it is used to make biogas and fertiliser.

In addition to food waste, Costa has been focusing on how it creates a circular economy around waste coffee grounds. Since June 2016, Costa has been working with clean technology company bio-bean to recycle used coffee grounds into biofuel. Through this partnership, bio-bean now recovers over 3,500 tonnes of coffee grounds every year from around 900 Costa Coffee stores.

Costa Coffee also runs an initiative called Grounds for Grounds, which gives its customers the opportunity to take used coffee grounds home to use in their gardens. Coffee grounds make great fertiliser and can also be used to create a naturally balanced compost pile.    

Driving Responsible Sourcing Practices – spotlight on Taylors of Harrogate, Sourcing Coffee Responsibly

Taylors recognises the role that transparency can play in helping create more resilient and sustainable supply chains. They have built an approach to coffee sourcing that puts quality, relationships and sustainability at the heart of their work. Being open about where coffee is bought from and how it is bought, helps us all to work together constructively and positively to drive progress against the standards we seek.

In 2015, the Taylors Sourcing Approach (TSA) was launched to support coffee producers. The TSA approach means that Taylors is able to work with producers to build a more sustainable supply chain, protecting farmers’ livelihoods, and has been designed in collaboration with coffee suppliers at every stage of its development.

Of course, coffee producers want to know that their coffee beans will be purchased for the long-term and that they will be paid fairly. However, they also want to collaborate on addressing sustainability challenges and know that the prices paid will be sustainable so that they can plan for the future and re-invest in their businesses.

The TSA approach therefore utilises long-term contracts that often run up to three years, which is rare in the coffee industry, and this provides farmers with long-term financial security. Secondly, TSA means that Taylors is committed to paying prices that aim to, at the very least, cover the cost of production and support producers when markets fall to unsustainable levels.

Taylors conducts annual reviews with all coffee suppliers to assess how the previous year has gone but also plan for the following year, face-to-face if possible. As part of this, Taylors is able to identify ways to help address social and environmental challenges that suppliers and producers are facing within their operations. In 2019, Taylors invested £1m to such projects across their coffee and tea supply chains.      

Improving Long Term Resilience of Coffee Farmers at Origin – spotlight on Nespresso PUR Projet and AAA Sustainable Quality Program

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program was launched with the Rainforest Alliance in 2003. A unique green coffee sourcing approach that combines quality, productivity and sustainability, the AAA program drives improvements in social, environmental and economic conditions for coffee farmers and farming communities.

By 2018 over 100,000 farmers across 13 countries had enrolled in the program and 94% of Nespresso coffees are sourced via AAA farms.

Many of these farms, like many other farms around the world, are seeing a decline in quality and productivity due to the adverse weather patterns and high incidence of disease as a result of climate change. Nespresso sees its role is to strengthen the resilience of farming communities to maintain the quality and supply despite these adverse effects. One of the ways in which they do this is by strengthening the coffee landscape resilience through extensive tree planting, or in-setting, in partnership with the NGO Pur Project.

PUR Projet, an innovative type of carbon emissions offset that integrates socio-economic and environmental projects within a company’s supply chain, is helping Nespresso achieve an ambitious five-million tree goal. Unlike traditional carbon offsets, which are purchased to compensate for company-related emissions, in-setting takes a holistic approach focused on proactively restoring ecosystems and building sustainability.

Trees slow down runoff, stabilising the soil and increasing its water retention capacity. Trees also create organic matter, enriching the soil and preventing degradation. In addition, the taller trees help protect coffee plants from increasingly unpredictable weather patterns – such as extreme drought and heavy rain and wind – and help farmers diversify by providing fruit, spices, wood, and other by-products to sell. These programs bring many benefits to coffee growers, as well as to the land that they rely on to bring us the high-quality coffee that we love to drink.

For Nespresso, PUR Projet designed a custom agroforestry initiative that combines agriculture and forestry to make smallholder coffee farms more resilient to the effects of climate change. To meet the unique needs of each region, PUR Projet selects native trees and partners with local agronomists working with Nespresso, and farmers through Nespresso’s AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program. The initiative works to create long-term, sustainable coffee quality by building direct relationships with those growing it.

Since 2014 Nespresso has invested approximately CHF 10million and planted more than 3.5mllion trees across Columbia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Indonesia and Brazil.


If you would like to join the BCA or are a member of the BCA working on a sustainability initiative and would like to share it with us, please contact: