Behind the Beans: Creating World’s First Sustainable Agricultural Product

By Bambi Semroc, Conservation International


Picking coffee berries. © Ingmar Zahorsky/Flickr Creative Commons

It takes about 70 coffee beans to make the perfect cup of coffee.

It takes about 3-4 years to grow the perfect coffee bean.

Behind those beans that fuel your morning are the lives of millions of farmers around the world whose livelihoods depend on growing, caring for, and selling coffee. Behind those beans is a cumulative land area the size of Cuba dedicated to the cultivation of coffee. And behind those beans are the threats of climate change affecting growing conditions, market volatility significantly lowering prices, aging coffee trees declining in productivity, and a generation of farmers seeking economic alternatives for their livelihoods.

These are complex issues that require a wide range of solutions and commitments.

Enter, the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.

Water splashes on pile of coffee berries.

Water splashes on pile of coffee berries. © Conservation International/photo by Miguel Ángel de la Cueva

Comprised of 48 partners from across the coffee sector – from farmers to retailers to entire nations – the Sustainable Coffee Challenge is a catalyst for making coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product. Convened by Conservation International, the Challenge is a dynamic and diverse coalition united in the belief that it is possible to grow coffee while ensuring the prosperity and wellbeing of farmers and conserving forest, water and soil.

We know that every player across the coffee sector contributes a little something different to the future of coffee. We are providing a common space for understanding the numerous sustainability commitments and initiatives underway – the Commitments Hub.

There, participants can publicly state and report on their sustainability commitments in an online, open-source forum. All businesses, organizations, nations and entities working in the coffee sector are invited to join the Challenge and make a commitment via the hub.

We believe that in sharing information about our efforts in this way, we can identify opportunities for collaboration and more readily scale up our programs to ensure the prosperity of producers, the conservation of nature, and the long-term supply of coffee. We also aim to inspire new and more ambitious commitments to sustainable coffee.

You can become a partner in the Challenge by:

  • Stating your support for the Challenge that shows your alignment with the vision of making coffee the first sustainable agricultural product.
  • Publicly stating and reporting your commitment in the Commitments Hub, with willingness to share experiences and lessons learned within community networks.
  • Joining a working group to help shape the Challenge.

Every individual, business and organization involved with coffee has a role to play in making coffee a truly sustainable product. Because, what goes into that cup of goodness you crave every morning is more than just coffee beans.


Bambi Semroc is a senior strategic advisor in Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s