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How to make a sustainable coffee

How to make a great tasting coffee, whilst getting a fair deal for producers and the environment

Producing sustainable products and operating ethically is now an expectation of responsible businesses and consumers, but perhaps even more so in the tea and coffee industries which have deservedly faced criticism in the past. 

Ethically and sustainable produced coffee products

At Lincoln and York, we are pleased to say that things have moved on significantly and that as a responsible coffee producer we are not alone in proactively looking for ways to ensure our coffee producing operations and supply chains are ethically managed. So what should consumers and businesses look out for when sourcing and drinking sustainable coffee?

1. Certified coffee

To be certified, producers must meet social and environmental standards. We have seen first-hand how some communities including farmers and labourers around the globe are dependent on their coffee production.

•    Fairtrade certification
Fairtrade was created in response to the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement and the plight of Mexican coffee farmers. It ensures that coffee farmers receive a fair and stable price for their coffee that covers average costs of sustainable production.

•    Rainforest Alliance
The Rainforest Alliance scheme does not have a fixed price structure but instead is concerned with policing production and environmental impact. The idea is that higher standards of production and environmental responsibility will raise prices across the board in line with the associated costs of delivery of those standards. The scheme recently merged with UTZ certification which is concerned with similar values. Read more.

•    OF&G Organic
OF&G Organic certified coffee must be produced using environmentally and animal friendly farming methods that minimize any detrimental effect to our health and the environment. Considerations include soil, crop fertilisation, pesticides and environmental management and conservation. Read more.

•    Soil Association Organic Standard
The Soil Association symbol is internationally recognised as a mark of organic certification which takes into consideration all aspects of organic food manufacturing and production, storage and sales. 

2. The environmental impact of your coffee

What you choose to do with your ethically produced takeaway coffee cup, used coffee pods or coffee grounds is at the very end of a long chain of environmental considerations in eco-friendly coffee production. 

Producers like ourselves should be actively making a commitment to reducing waste across the business, such as the removal of single use plastics throughout the supply chain. Product packaging should be changing to facilitate recycle and re-use, plus the adoption of a zero waste business-wide landfill policy. The reduction of energy consumption and a shift to renewable sources ought to be part of the corporate plan, and soon. 

If you are unsure regarding a producer’s environmental credentials from searching their website and social media, we would encourage you to ring them up and ask, as this puts the spotlight on the issue.    

3. Supporting the local community

As well as being ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly, coffee producers can add value at a local level too. Coffee producers and retailers can also make a huge difference within the communities they serve through social initiatives for young people promoting skills, confidence and employment, and directly supporting local clubs and groups. Regular charity fundraising is a simple way to give something back, with updates usually found on social media channels.

The future
According to the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, the biggest issues facing the coffee industry in creating ethically produced coffee are sustainable sourcing, resilient supply, health and prosperity and the environment. Every coffee producer has a responsibility to commit to improvements in these areas so that collectively we can change and future proof the coffee production landscape from roots, to cup and beyond. 

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