4C Association looks to include more coffee producers than ever with new code

4C Association has announced a number of changes to its code of conduct, with the aim of making its entry-level sustainability standards more inclusive for producers. The code of conduct consists of 27 economic, social and environmental principles for the sustainable production, processing and trading of green coffee. For each principle, criteria are categorised on their level of sustainability as green indicating desirability, yellow implying improvement is required, or red indicating the practice should be discontinued.  Producer groups, or 4C Units, are only permitted to sell coffee with the 4C Compliant Coffee certification, if a minimum yellow average rating is reached. “The former 4C Code of Conduct is already being used by more than 415,000 farmers and 1.1 million workers in 24 producing countries,” said the 4C Association. “In 2014, they produced 41 million bags of 4C Compliant Coffee, nearly 29 per cent of global coffee production – with the new code, the ambition is to expand this reach even further, touching all coffee producers around the world with baseline sustainability criteria.” The 4C Association said the revisions to the code aim to provide more clarity on what exactly is expected from coffee producers at the implementation process.

One major change is emphasising farming as a business, through shifting farmer training to focus on the economic dimension of coffee production, rather than the social dimension. This involves raising awareness among producers about practices that lead to long-term profitability. The 4C Association has also changed its approach to pesticides, with a considerable group of pesticides moving from the Red List to the Yellow List. The 4C Association said the pesticides that were moved were considered by producers to be important tools with no alternatives, not banned by other standard systems and the least hazardous on the red list.
The changes to the pesticides code also stipulates personal protection equipment be used in all cases. A group of key principles regarding biodiversity, waste water, health and safety, use of pesticides, soil conservation and record keeping has been adapted to clarify how it applies to small holder producers. The 4C Association said the changes to the code were necessary to take into account its rapid growth. The 4C Association began its code revision process in 2013, surveying its members to assess their needs. In 2014, 4C Association held consultations with 224 organisations around the word, including producers, traders, civil society, government and research institutions. Before introducing the code, field tests were conducted in Brazil, Uganda, Vietnam and Honduras, to assess its feasibility. “The revised code is the result of listening to hundreds of stakeholders. The focus was to look at what is happening on the ground, listen to the voices of coffee farmers and devise ways to help them overcome the challenges they face,” said John Schluter, Chairman of the Technical Committee of the 4C Association. “We are confident that the new Code will enable more coffee farmers to join in and take the first steps on their sustainability journey.” Image credit 4C Association.

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