• Announcement
16. May 2023

An article by Lara Heinz

At the beginning of the Coffee Sustainability Dialogue on 4th and 5th of May 2023, participants gather at the Tagungswerk in Berlin, how could it be otherwise, over a cup of coffee. After a long period of digital collaboration, more than 120 national and international representatives of the coffee industry are travelling to the two-day exchange, so it feels like a big reunion.

The event is opened by Sebastian Lesch from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), who in his welcoming remarks explicitly thanks representatives from coffee-growing countries for attending. In addition to major social and environmental challenges in the coffee sector, he points to progress at the regulatory level, such as the recently adopted EU Regulation on Deforestation-Free Products (EUDR) and the forthcoming EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD). In addition to legal regulations, however, more ambitious goals from the private sector are also needed, he said. "Make your commitment more transparent, measurable and comparable," Sebastian Lesch appeals to the numerous companies represented in the room.

Living income in the coffee sector - between vision and reality

Next on the agenda is the topic of living incomes and wages in the coffee sector. While discussions on this fundamental human right are already in full swing in the cocoa sector, the coffee sector has a lot of catching up to do. Questions for the panel participants (traders, roasters, producers and politicians) are: What role does the German Supply Chain Sourcing Obligations Act and the forthcoming EU Supply Chain Act play with regard to the goal of realizing living wages and incomes? What still needs to change to improve the income situation of coffee producers? The panelists agreed that the goal can only be achieved through partnerships of diverse supply chain actors and that solutions need to be considered together with other challenges facing the sector, such as climate change. However, despite the shared vision of living incomes in the coffee sector, it became clear that these have sometimes rarely become a reality.

Transparency and traceability (also) in terms of regulation

After a promising first day with plenty of time for exchange and networking in the evening, the second day of the sustainability dialogue started with a new thematic block on transparency and traceability in the coffee sector. Particularly against the backdrop of current German and European regulations, there is an increasing need for digital solutions for the traceability of a product in order to track the effects of climate change, human rights violations or environmental pollution in the supply chain. In the form of market stalls, which all participants can visit one after the other, nine teams present their approaches for more transparency in the coffee supply chain. From these presentations, discussions quickly develop on the further development of the tools and their usefulness in meeting regulatory obligations.

Climate crisis in the coffee sector - contributor and/or affected?

Coffee, climate and disasters - in the afternoon of the second day, participants look at the future of coffee in times of climate change. As a result of climate change, the area under coffee cultivation will decline sharply. It is not so easy for coffee farmers to move to higher, cooler regions, and other impacts are already being felt. One thing is certain: Coffee production must adapt to changing climatic conditions while looking at where and how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced along the coffee supply chain. There is a lively discussion on the panel about coffee prices that are too low, the role and responsibility of individual supply chain actors in the implementation, financing and scalability of adaptation and climate change mitigation measures, and islands of knowledge that are not yet being brought together.

The Coffee Sustainability Dialogue makes it clear that the pressure to act could not be greater in view of rising production costs, price fluctuations and the consequences of climate change. This makes the participants all the more appreciative of the opportunity for exchange. Never has there been more need for action.

Listen up, and go

As part of this coffee sustainability dialogue, the hosts of the podcast "From the Field to the Shelf" talked with participants about the impact of the climate crisis on coffee cultivation. The result is an entertaining podcast episode with interesting information, vocal performances and a quiz question. It's worth a listen! (only available in German)

Episode 78 - Coffee, climate and disasters - How climate change is endangering our beloved stimulant - From the field to the shelf