Sustainable Coffee Initiatives

Updated July 23, 2017

I receive quite a few questions at the farmer's market regarding various sustainability issues such as organic coffee, shade grown coffee, free trade coffee, etc.  To help educate myself, I picked up a copy of The Coffee Paradox by Benoit Daviron and Stefano Ponte and I'll be dedicating several blog posts to the subject, starting with this one.

First let's start with some definitions so we're all taking about the same thing.  In future posts I'll dive deeper into each category.  For now, we just need to agree on their meaning and intent.

Organic Coffee is coffee produced in a way that protects the agro-ecosystem, or terroir.

Shade Grown also is intended to protect the local environment by utilizing forest cover to encourage biodiversity and provide a habitat for migratory birds

Fair Trade Coffee focuses on trade relationships and aims to ensure that profits from coffee sales are fairly distributed.

Utz Certified has developed a code of conduct for growing sustainable coffee based on the 'good agricultural practices' of the European Retailer Group (EUREP).

That's all well and good, but what exactly is the purpose of these types of initiatives?  They are all meant to address inequalities in the coffee trade by working in concert with various governmental, civil and corporate entities.   The big question is; are they successful at leveling the playing field for coffee producers or have they become a marketing ploy?  We'll further explore that question in later posts.

This post is part of a series:

Sustainable Coffee: Ethical Consumption
Sustainable Coffee: Fair Trade Coffee
Sustainable Coffee: Ethical Trade
Sustainable Coffee: Organic Coffee

Updated July 23, 2017: changed format of series links.


Michael C. Wright

Michael is an American expat living in Singapore where he writes about many things coffee-related. A roaster by trade, Michael is also exploring coffee production and how to improve the lives of those who produce the noble bean.

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