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34. SCAA preview – Moving beyond coffee

2010-04-15 Comments Off on 34. SCAA preview – Moving beyond coffee

Yesterday I suggested that many of the threats to the sustainable coffee enterprise arise from beyond the coffee chain itself.  Some of these threats, like climate change, are new.  Others, like hunger in the coffeelands, are not.  In all cases, they require a new kind of engagment and new investments at origin to create a truly sustainable trade in coffee. 

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch as we move toward “Sustainability 2.0.”  There are multiple generations of sustainability leaders working today in specialty coffee chains whose innovations have made the coffee industry a lab for the development of new and more equitable business models.  And there are a handful of pioneers in the industry who have moved beyond the mainstream certification-driven approach to sustainability to support the kinds of community-driven activities that show us what a new, more expansive wave of sustainability work at origin might look like.

These companies are already providing direct supporting for community-driven work in the coffeelands that around a dizzying array of issues that may seem to have little to do with coffee: water security, climate change, environmental sustainability, food security, etc.

This broader lens might seem to take people away from the coffee that is the focus of their passion. It might mean finding ways to support the planting of citrus trees. Or the formation of women’s savings groups. Or the marketing of high-end crafts.  Or the construction of guesthouses for backpackers. Or wind-farms.  Or payment for watershed management services.   All of this might feel a long way from the coffee that we love.  In the end, it may the surest way to keep the good stuff coming.