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by Alex Morgan

Quality Coffee, Sustainable Futures

Categories: 2011, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

More than 400 mil­lion cups of cof­fee are con­sumed each day in the United States (US), often with­out a thought to where or how the cof­fee was grown. In fact, the world’s cof­fee is pro­duced in the trop­ics by more than 25 mil­lion peo­ple, and most cof­fee farms are located in areas regarded as high pri­or­i­ties for conservation.

Agricultural expan­sion is respon­si­ble for 70 per­cent of global defor­esta­tion and is the sin­gle great­est threat to trop­i­cal forests. In these biodiversity-rich regions, poor farm­ing prac­tices can lead to soil ero­sion, water pol­lu­tion, and wildlife habi­tat destruc­tion. And many farm work­ers strug­gle to make a liv­ing and feed them­selves and their families.

The Rainforest Alliance has spent more than a decade work­ing toward a sus­tain­able sys­tem of cof­fee pro­duc­tion – one that sup­ports the rights and well-being of farm­ers, their lands, their liveli­hoods, their fam­i­lies, and communities.

At the Rainforest Alliance, we believe that one of the best ways to keep forests stand­ing is by ensur­ing that it is prof­itable for busi­nesses and com­mu­ni­ties to do so. That means help­ing cof­fee farm­ers real­ize greater eco­nomic ben­e­fits by ensur­ing ecosys­tems within and around their farms are pro­tected, and that their work­ers are well trained and enjoy safe con­di­tions, proper san­i­ta­tion, health care, and hous­ing. Once farms meet cer­tain envi­ron­men­tal and social stan­dards, we link them up to the global mar­ket­place where demand for third-party cer­ti­fied sus­tain­able cof­fee is on the rise.

The Rainforest Alliance is work­ing to bring cof­fee back into its nat­ural habi­tat, restore local ecosys­tems, and pro­tect wildlife habi­tat. We work with count­less part­ners on the ground, includ­ing other NGO’s, com­pa­nies, farmer train­ing insti­tu­tions, gov­ern­ments and indi­vid­u­als to pro­vide tech­ni­cal assis­tance and train­ing to farm­ers across the coffee-growing globe.

To achieve Rainforest Alliance cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, farms must meet strict sus­tain­abil­ity stan­dards that pro­tect the envi­ron­ment and the rights and well-being of work­ers and their fam­i­lies. Certified farms con­serve bio­di­ver­sity, pre­vent defor­esta­tion, pro­tect water­ways, recy­cle waste, reduce agro­chem­i­cal use and pro­vide habi­tat for wildlife. In addi­tion, per­ma­nent and tem­po­rary work­ers oper­ate in safe con­di­tions and earn just wages for their work that com­ply with local and national laws. More than 43,500 cof­fee farms are Rainforest Alliance Certified™, mean­ing 899,399 acres of farm­land are sus­tain­ably managed.

Rainforest Alliance cer­ti­fi­ca­tion helps farm­ers bear the erratic swings in the global mar­ket by giv­ing them the keys to improved farm man­age­ment, lever­age when nego­ti­at­ing and access to pre­mium mar­kets. Through cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, farm­ers learn the impor­tance of pro­tect­ing their nat­ural resources and are given the finan­cial incen­tive to do so.

Consumer demand for envi­ron­men­tally and socially respon­si­ble goods is at an all time high. According to a 2010 study, 84 per­cent of con­sumers in the US have pur­chased sus­tain­able food or drink in the past month (source: Mintel, Sustainable Food and Drink) and another study in 2009 indi­cated that 54 per­cent of shop­pers in the US con­sider sus­tain­abil­ity to be one of their deci­sion mak­ing fac­tors and are “lean­ing green” (source: Grocery Manufacturers Association & Deloitte, Green Shopper Study).

To meet increas­ing con­sumer demand for sus­tain­ably pro­duced goods, more cof­fee com­pa­nies around the world are sourc­ing their beans from cer­ti­fied farms. In 2010, approx­i­mately 114,884 met­ric tons of cof­fee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms was sold, a 31 per­cent increase from 2009. We antic­i­pate sim­i­lar if not more growth by the end of this year for 2011.

Business as usual is no longer an option. To suc­ceed in the long-term, com­pa­nies are increas­ingly choos­ing sus­tain­able sourc­ing through Rainforest Alliance cer­ti­fi­ca­tion across a myr­iad of crops. Certification enables com­pa­nies to pro­vide mean­ing­ful and long-lasting impacts on the ground for farm­ers and the envi­ron­ment, get needed trace­abil­ity and trans­parency in the sup­ply chain and ensure inde­pen­dent, rig­or­ous audit­ing so that high achiev­ing farms can be truly rec­og­nized for their work.

Coffee lovers every­where can sup­port farm­ers who main­tain crit­i­cal forests and treat their work­ers with dig­nity sim­ply by choos­ing beans stamped with the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal of approval. To learn more about how Rainforest Alliance cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ben­e­fits the lands, lives and liveli­hoods of cof­fee farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties across the globe, visit: SealYourCup.org.

Alex Morgan is the Senior Manager for North America for the Agriculture divi­sion at the Rainforest Alliance. He has worked for the orga­ni­za­tion for the last four years and has been engaged in the cof­fee indus­try for over nine years. Alex lives and works in Seattle and is cur­rently a mem­ber of the SCAA’s Sustainability Council.