Reaction former TCC members on ‘4C Position Statement Coffee Barometer 2012’

Tropical Commodity Coalition (TCC) has always combined the strengths of numerous civil society organisations to promote sustainability in the coffee, cocoa and tea sectors. Throughout the years, the TCC has been central in advocating sustainable sourcing by industry. The TCC has organised campaigns, multi-stakeholder seminars and published ground breaking documents to keep the debate alive, dynamic and, above all, relevant. It is therefore with regret that the current phase of the Tropical Commodity Coalition is to be concluded. While closing down the organization TCC published one final sector report, the Coffee Barometer 2012.

 

The Coffee Barometer 2012 is not only written to give a static overview of the current situation and the future challenges ahead, but is also meant to foster the sustainability discussion in the global coffee sector. Although very important steps have been made already, many challenges remain and constant vigilance must be maintained to warrant that plans set into action will bring improvement for producers and their environment. For us as civil society platform this means a critical monitoring of the sustainability initiatives present and the future commitments that are made.

 

Our research process for the Coffee Barometer 2012 started with a consultation round with the ten major coffee roasters and the five standards systems relevant for coffee production (as presented in our report). As TCC we were very glad that so many companies and standards systems active in the coffee sector were willing to share their data with us in helping us to make the report as accurate as possible. Cooperation and constructive dialogues between TCC and the companies and standards systems has positively improved over the years, without losing the critical role we have to play.

 

Next to our individual consultation rounds, we also presented our first results during a sustainability event of the Royal Dutch Coffee and Tea Association (KNVKT) on November 14th 2011 in Amsterdam. Several coffee roasters and standards systems (including 4C) were present here to consult and give their comments and remarks on the results we had so far. During that consultation meeting we did not get any feedback on Aldi and we also never heard the remark that one of the largest 4C members, namely Strauss, was missing in the top ten global coffee roasters.

 

The main subject for this barometer is transparency, since transparency is an important criteria for more sustainable value chains. For us this also means that companies and standards systems are clear in communicating their current state but also their future commitments and how they are planning to reach this. As can be seen in figure 5 in the Coffee Barometer, within the top ten global coffee roasters, 5 companies were quite clear about their data and commitments (although some more transparency is needed here as well) and the other 5 companies did not publicly disclose their sustainability policy at all.

 

These last 5 companies have been contacted by TCC several times during the research phase of the report. Unfortunately they have never responded to our request. For us this was enough reason to categorize them as not-transparent. Strauss coffee is an exception in this story, since they were not on our radar in the beginning of our research phase. Fortunately we were informed by an external source that Strauss is nowadays the number 5 coffee roaster in the world and needed to be included in our overview. Therefore it is correct that Strauss was only later on consulted by TCC and had a much shorter period to react.

 

The information that Strauss is disclosing in their CSR report 2010 on their 4C volumes and sustainability strategy is confusing. TCC and 4C have had a discussion on that already. Strauss is saying in their report: "In practice, Strauss purchased 2,788 tons of sustainable coffee through 4C in 2010 , which is equivalent to approximately 4.36% of Strauss’ total coffee purchases which is approximately 60,230 tons (excluding coffee purchases in Brazil). We thus successfully met our target and exceeded it by 24%."

 

TCC opinions that all coffee purchases, including Brazil will be included to evaluate the sustainability efforts of a company. Strauss Coffee states on their website they are the number 5 in the world and have an estimated global volume of 215,000 Mt. A lot more than the 60,000 tons they mention themselves in their sustainability targets. So if we calculate correctly, their 4C purchases are just over 1% of their global coffee purchases. And the ambition of increasing the volume every year with 50% would lead to 1.5 % in the year after. TCC has also approached Strauss with this fact and our question about the confusing figures but did not receive an answer at that moment. For that reason this figure of 1% was not mentioned in the report.

 

Throughout the report we have mentioned the five standards systems relevant for coffee production. The four major coffee production standards: Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO), Organic (IFOAM), Rainforest Alliance (RA) and UTZ Certified (UTZ) and the Common Code for the Coffee

Community (4C). Not only in the text of chapters 2 and 3 but also in the figures. The only place 4C was not shown as a standards system is in figure 6 (European market demand) since 4C is not a business to consumer model and therefore it was impossible to show the markets served by 4C verified coffees. In our report 4C is mainly treated as a standards system, rather than the role of association they also fulfill. We mention in the report the shift of 4C towards a more business and demand driven model. We assume that in 2012 4C will further communicate about the results of this change of the business model.Coffee Barometer 2012 is a TCC endeavour to stimulate and enable the stakeholders to communicate and discuss critical issues in making the global coffee sector more sustainable.

 

The involved NGOs are currently discussing how they can proceed with the barometers a a group of individual members. On behalf of the former TCC members: Oxfam Novib, Hivos and Solidaridad.