Honesty is the best policy! Let’s talk about the ethics behind our business and coffee. We want to address our position, our commitment and our actions on sustainability. We are acutely aware that we are all contributing to the same global problems, we are all in this together, we all have to take responsibility. This blog aims to address our ambitions at Dear Green to measure our carbon footprint, to look at the life cycle assessment of coffee and how we plan to reduce our environmental impact. Our honest communication to you and how we keep our (science based) facts right!
We are not 100% ethical
Nobody is. Sustainability is often understood as how to sustain a business, which is a relevant and obvious interpretation but doesn’t fully encapsulate the entirety of what is required for a business like ours to be sustainable and to confidently use the term to describe our business practices. You only need to refer to the UN Sustainable Development Goals to see that it has been agreed as 17 separate areas requiring action that can be reported on․
So, let’s start at the beginning! We are committed to honesty and to rapid progress. We seek the highest industry standards and follow science-based targets. As part of Glasgow’s SME Net Zero business strategy, we have created a role dedicated exclusively to our environmental impact, our Net Zero/Sustainability Coordinator Martha Bytof joined us this year. You can read more about Martha here.
Martha has been tasked with advancing much of the good work we have started and continuing to take action, make recommendations and to reduce our companies environmental impact.
So let’s dig deeper: The first step to building a reduction strategy is by measuring the carbon emissions of all our business activities, which is what we call our carbon footprint.
Our supply chain is long and complex and it is not possible to minimise our carbon footprint immediately down to zero. So, we must take actions and have free flowing transparent communication all along our supply chain in order to create an achievable plan to reach our target.
This doesn’t mean that we are not doing our best, we still aimto go beyond - so what are the difficulties that we have met? What does this mean for our business and the coffee industry? Let’s take a look!
The concept of carbon footprint measuring
The concept of measuring your carbon footprint is new and a Western project, actually popularised by the fossil fuel industry who have been spreading climate denial for decades - so given that perspective we have to confront ourselves with the fact that we, in the ‘Global North’, are the main emitters and responsible for the climate crisis. Coffee grows only in the countries that are located in the coffee belt area, as seen in the map below. Devastatingly, these are all countries which are already affected by the climate crisis.
When introducing a new concept such as carbon reporting we have to actively question ourselves if this term that is being used in a predominantly white, cosmopolitan area is being actualised in coffee growing countries (the ‘Global South’). When assessing our footprint and finding out that on-site farming is the biggest challenge of measuring and monitoring our carbon footprint, then we have to view this from our stance, here in Scotland. We have to be realistic about the information required, the information available and the reasons behind both.
What we can do is be transparent about our relationships to our suppliers and farmers. We talk to our suppliers regularly and have implemented an environmental policy and a procurement checklist for all our suppliers that they sign as part of the code of conduct when contracting with us.
A life cycle assessment from Crop to Coffee Cup: Cradle-to-Gate or Cradle-to-Grave?
To monitor our product emissions, we looked at our coffee’s life cycle which means assessing the emissions from the coffee plant to the consumer. Before enjoying our cup of coffee, our beans go through several stages, starting with the production from growing, milling and processing to their transport, the roasting, grinding and packaging. All before being delivered to our customers who finally prepare our delicious coffee for consumption.
For the first time this year, we evaluated all emissions from farming production to freight distance, packaging and roasting. This is also understood as a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) from Cradle-To-Gate, meaning the measuring of all carbon emissions from coffee farming practices right through to when our coffee is ready to leave our roastery to be delivered to our customer. We are currently working on going even further and getting a grasp on measuring emissions of the end-of-life product, this refers to all emissions after the coffee beans have left our premises.
When measuring such emissions, it has to be said that the whole industry has raised the issue of current lack of data. This does not come as a surprise because monitoring and measuring emissions of a production requires a lot of work, time and knowledge. As a result, when calculating our emissions we have had to make use of what data exists, we always choose the higher calculation factor in fairness to rather admit to a bigger emission than to try and push our numbers down.
Lastly, we are aware that there is a trend that in reporting a company's impact can result in information overload for customers. We don’t want to confuse output with impact, so will only share what is necessary, we hope with time data will be easier to measure and it will in turn be easier for us to report key information.
Environmental protection and preservation is one area of sustainability that we take seriously at Dear Green and how we can ensure environmental protection from the coffee crop to the coffee cup. For the time being we would like to introduce some key projects from our coffee importers dedicated to supporting sustainability.
The Stumping Project
Initiated by Falcon Coffee Importers and managed by Technoserve. The Stumping Project is quite literally tree stumping. The process helps to prevent suckering and fungal root rot whilst also increasing future coffee cherry yeild and general tree health.. Although tree stumps are often large and heavy, they can easily be removed with the right equipment and technique. We have written a blog post about this which can be found here.
The Daterra Project launched by D R Wakefield is dedicated to their environmental impact and pioneering of sustainability work in the coffee industry. The project is not only the only B Corp coffee farm in the world, but also is part of the journey of filling in the lack of data and measuring their carbon emissions. And much more. We are very proud to be in contract with coffee importers involved in pioneering projects such as.
Check out similar blog posts on our waste management, B-Corp Assessment or more to inform yourself here below in our references:
Rahn, E., Läderach, P., Baca, M.et al. Climate change adaptation, mitigation and livelihood benefits in coffee production: where are the synergies?.Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 19, 1119–1137 (2014).https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-013-9467-x
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