A University of Florida wildlife and ecology professor has attempted to specify what some of the most commonly seen coffee certifications mean. In a story for the Huffington Post, Mark Hostetler explores questions that many coffee-drinking consumers may have about their drinks:
There are several “sustainable” certification labels that appear on coffee. I love coffee, but what do all those environmental coffee labels mean? Is one certification better than the other? When choosing coffee that is reported to be more sustainable than conventional coffee, what should we pay attention to? Thanks to a graduate student of mine (Gloria Lentijo), who worked on biodiversity projects with coffee farmers in Columbia , we have some descriptions of different certification programs.
Hostetler goes on to define USADA Organic Certification, Fairtrade Certification, Rainforest Alliance Certification, Bird-Friendly Certification, and Starbucks C.A.F.E Practices. Of the latter, Hostetler writes:
C.A.F.E. (which stands for Coffee and Farmer Equity) evaluates the economic, social, and environmental aspects of coffee production in order to ensure that Starbucks’s sources of coffee are sustainably grown. Starbucks collaborated with Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), a third-party evaluation and certification firm, to develop the guidelines for the program. C.A.F.E. guidelines focus on four areas: (1) high quality; (2) economic accountability, which means that Starbucks suppliers must submit evidence of how much of the final price paid by Starbucks gets to the farmer; (3) social responsibility that guarantees safe, fair, and humane working conditions; and (4) environmental stewardship, which means that farmers manage waste, protect water quality, conserve water and energy, preserve biodiversity, and reduce agrochemical use. C.A.F.E. insists on extremely high quality standards, both for beans and for the finished, brewed coffee. Although this certification prefers shade-grown coffee farms, sun coffee farms are allowed when environmental conditions are not appropriate for shade-grown coffee. Standards for shade in this certification are not as strict as the Rainforest and Bird-friendly programs. For example, for farms that have shade trees, this certification requires that at least 40% of the coffee production area of the farm have shade trees, and that at least 75% of these trees must be native.
The full story: Huffington Post