Specialty coffee and sustainability: reflections on the SCAA 2015

Miguel Zamora, Business Development

MiguelI’ve been attending the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) event for 10 years now, and I’m always struck by the passion and enthusiasm of everyone who attends. From farmers, industry and NGOs alike, it’s great to be among a group of people who are all focused on coffee, and so many who are focused on sustainability all across the supply chain.

A highlight for me was the panel event on farmworkers in coffee. It might have been the very first time in SCAA history that a farmworker actually presented at a panel: Marlene, who I have known for a few years now, made a heartfelt plea to the industry about the need and importance to support and improve the situation of coffee workers worldwide. The other participants, from industry and NGOs, made the case about why industry should get involved in understanding and improving the situation of farmworkers in coffee. The ethical case (a human case) about the need to support the most marginalized group involved in coffee. And the business case of minimizing brand risk and supply risk by avoiding the worst cases of labor abuse and securing the well-being of those who pick the coffee we use all over the world.

Another highlight was participating and contributing in several discussions with industry, farmers and NGOs about climate change adaptation and mitigation, gender in coffee, productivity and profitability at farming level, food security, water use and preservation in the coffee lands.

It was also fantastic to meet with industry and sustainability leaders, and with our partners, including Massimo Zanetti, Gavina Coffee, S&D Coffee, among others. At UTZ we are glad we can be a sustainability partner for the coffee industry and collaborate in designing solutions for the challenges and opportunities we face together.

What’s clear is that sustainability and quality go hand in hand. And the challenge to secure the long-term sustainable supply of specialty coffee is real. We are eager to continue supporting our partners and the industry in general to make sustainable farming the norm and create a more sustainable coffee industry. I came away really excited about the future of specialty coffee!

Brigitta Nemes, Relationship & Customer Marketing Manager

brigi_nemesAt this year’s SCAA it was great to see that gender and youth were on the agenda – both are incredibly important topics in coffee production, and close to our hearts at UTZ Certified.

At a panel discussion on gender, we heard that women do a big proportion of the agricultural work in coffee production, but often farms owned or taken care of by women have lower production. It’s a complicated issue with many causes, but one of the factors is that women are too often excluded from training. That’s why the UTZ program includes specific control points requiring equal access to training. Why should we be interested in this? CQI (Coffee Quality Institute) shared some fascinating figures on what would happen if women had equal opportunities to men:

  • Yield increase of 20% – 30%
  • Increase agricultural output 2.5% – 4%
  • Reduce the number of the world’s hunger bu 12% – 17%
  • When women have greater status, the family allocate more income to child health, nutrition and education

It was also good to see dialogue around the issue of young people in the coffee sector. With the average age of coffee farmers continuously on the rise, as an industry we need to think about the future – how can we make coffee farming a viable option for the tech savvy younger generation? Through technology they already have acquired more skills than their parents had at their age. They might not be that interested in becoming solely a coffee farmer. Diversification (e.g. growing other crops or engaging with other activities e.g. crafting) was one of the main ideas on the table, with the importance of collaboration always high on the agenda.


Some of the UTZ team with representatives from Massimo Zanetti MZB

One thought on “Specialty coffee and sustainability: reflections on the SCAA 2015

  1. Chastity

    There are then the special approaches of brewing the beans.
    If you are a heavy coffee drinker make lunch you last
    cup. The plant originated in Africa but is now grown in over 70 countries.


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