4C Response to TCC Coffee Barometer_06022012

4C Association Position statement on Coffee Barometer 2012


The Dutch Tropical Commodity Coalition (TCC) published its “Coffee Barometer 2012” (available via www.teacoffeecocoa.org) coinciding with the closure of its operations at the end of January 2012. The 4C Association would like to acknowledge the research and campaigning work of TCC during the last decade. TCC has played an important role in triggering the discussion on sustainability in the coffee sector and challenging industry players to scale up their sustainability efforts.


The Coffee Barometer 2012 gives an overview on coffee standard systems, top ten market players, European market demand and critical issues in producing countries and at producer level. The final recommendations to foster a more sustainable coffee chain are important input for taking sustainability efforts further in the next years.


However, the 4C Association was very disappointed to find out that TCC did not include important facts on the 4C Association and its Members in the 2012 Coffee Barometer. This is despite of the fact that the 4C Secretariat shared the information with the TCC research team prior to the publication of the report. Moreover, the Coffee Barometer bases its claims on undisclosed sources. The 4C Association deplores this lack of transparency, which discredits its positive intention.


On page 13 of the Barometer, TCC states “Strauss and Aldi (Strauss, Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord are all members of the 4C Association) have not publically shared their sustainability strategy... and have not disclosed any tangible information on their current 4C procurement or future commitments”. It concludes that under these circumstances, “their membership amounts to fairwashing of their coffee business”.
About this allegation, the 4C Association would like to clarify the following:

    • As per the 4C Rules of Participation, roasters members of the 4C Association commit to buying increasing amounts of coffee from verified sources over time and report on these amounts on an annual basis to the 4C Secretariat. The 4C Association has strict internal compliance mechanisms in place to ensure members adhere to this requirement, eventually leading to the exclusion from 4C membership in case of non-compliance. These internal compliance mechanisms were developed in a multi-stakeholder dialogue including 4C producers, trade and industry and civil society members (Oxfam Novib, TCC member and chair and at that time also 4C member, was actively invloved in defining these rules). Based on the reporting by individual members, the 4C Association annually publishes aggregated 4C purchasing figures. Members of the 4C Association are encouraged, but not obliged, to communicate about their individual purchasing figures to the public.
    • In the case of the 4C Member Strauss, the information regarding purchases of 4C Compliant Coffee and future commitment is in fact available to the public on Strauss’ CSR Report 2010. The 4C Secretariat shared this information with TCC during the course of their research. Very regrettably, TCC did not include this information on the final report.

In other parts of the Barometer, when referring to international standards initiatives, TCC does not include the 4C Association in this group. The 4C Association would like to stress that:

    • The 4C Association is a full member of the ISEAL Alliance, the global association for social and environmental standards setting organizations. As such, the 4C Association is meeting the highest criteria to ensure that 4C standard-setting procedures are credible and effective. Not referring to the 4C Association in the same light as other standards setting organizations is clearly uninformative and misleading.

On a positive note, the 4C Association fully agrees with and supports the main conclusions of the Report, especially regarding the need to increase pre-competitive cooperation, go beyond certification and create a level-playing field. As the pre-competitive multi-stakeholder initiative for the coffee sector, the 4C Association offers all stakeholders a platform where they can jointly address the sustainability challenges of the sector in a pre-competitive manner. Moreover, in order to stimulate supply of and demand for verified and certified coffee, the 4C Association not only promotes its own baseline standard and verification system but also those of other sustainability standards.