The German Coffee Association and the German government’s international development agency (GTZ) initiated the Common Code for the Coffee Comunity (4C). Aim is to foster sustainability in the ‘mainstream’ green coffee chain and to increase the quantities of coffee meeting basic sustainability criteria. Participating in the initiative are producers, represented mainly by national coffee associations, trade union representatives and NGOs, as well as key industry players, including Nestlé, Sara Lee/Douwe Egberts, Tchibo and Kraft.


The 4C builds on basic good agricultural and management practices. Its code of conduct intends to eliminate the most unacceptable practices and encourage ongoing improvement. The 4C distinguishes itself from Organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified by relying on “verification” rather than “certification” of standards compliance. Verification entails and internal monitoring system incorporated within the initiative’s corporate business model rather than relying on external verifiers and/or third party guarantees. Verification of compliance under the 4Cs is now performed in nearly a dozen producing countries. The 4C hopes to achieve a baseline benchmark for coffee production across mainstream industry.


In its first operational year, the 2007/2008 coffee harvest 4.5 million coffee bags (60kg) of green coffee complying with the 4C criteria were verified in 21 countries. During its launch in 2007, the 4C Association stated to only verify ‘virgin’ coffee, which is coffee that has not been verified or certified by any other production standard in the coffee market. The figures presented by 4C make no reference to this initial distinction, creating confusion about the existing overlap with other initiatives.


Although the broad support and commitment of the various stakeholders organised in the 4C Association is promising, only a fraction of the available verified 4C coffee has actually been purchased by its members. About 10% of the total volume, or 475,000 bags of 4C coffee have been purchased as 4C coffee in 2007/2008.


For more information visit www.4c-coffeeassociation.org