ECOM summarises its strategic approach to ethical and environmental trading


ECOM summarises its group-wide strategic approach to ethical and environmental trading for the good of communities and shared environment.

Whether it’s finding new ways to grow coffee, collecting better data for farmers and customers, or supporting communities at origin through education and female empowerment initiatives, ECOM aims to take coffee forwards and help secure its future.

To achieve this, ECOM has established three overall commitments to improve farmer prosperity, protect nature, and manage supply chain traceability.

“We can’t afford to ignore the environment considering coffee supplies are being threatened by long-term challenges such as climate change, and we can’t afford to let farmers cope with more costs of production, as they will readily switch to replacement crops. We need to make [producing] coffee attractive, and the only way to do that is by operating sustainably,” says ECOM’s Asia Pacific Regional Sustainability Manager Laurent Bossolasco.

“With our entrepreneurial mindset and broad global network, ECOM is proud to pave the way for coffee’s next stage.”

To improve prosperity, ECOM is helping farmers invest in secure, resilient businesses that empower them, their families, and their communities to lead dignified and prosperous lives.

ECOM Sustainable Management Services (SMS) Coffee Global Manager Benjamin Rimaud says the farmer prosperity commitment is divided into two components: economic and social.

“Economically, we want farmers to achieve financial empowerment and profitability,” he says.

Socially, ECOM is eliminating breaches of human rights through proper risk identification and remediation.

“We believe that farmers can and should be given the support to uphold globally recognised human rights, including safe and fair workplaces,” Rimaud says.

To protect nature, ECOM utilises regenerative agriculture, providing farmers with quality seedlings and training on climate-smart practices.

“This is being achieved by optimising natural resource management practices, improving farmer resilience to the effects of climate change, and our efforts to become a Net Zero emissions company in our Scope 1, 2 and 3 by 2050,” says Bossolasco.

Bossolasco says setting ECOM’s Net Zero target has been the culmination of a long process and a commitment to be fully in line with the Paris Agreement.

“Most of our emissions as a commodities trader come from our Scope 3 operations. However, in order to achieve our goal of being a Net Zero organisation by 2050, it’s vital that we look at how we can reduce the Scope 1 and 2 emissions produced in our factories and warehouses,” he says.

ECOM will reduce its carbon footprint through sustainable operations in energy, water, and waste, including the use of fossil- fuel alternatives. Already, it uses solar power and biogas as alternative power sources at facility level, as well as sophisticated techniques to treat wastewater and recycle waste.

“Reducing emissions is our responsibility but also an opportunity to change how we do business, how coffee is farmed and produced. It’s an opportunity to find new economic benefits for producers and small holders to be compensated for the climate and receive access to a premium market to sell net zero coffee,” says Rimaud.

Farm management is one means by which ECOM is helping promote farmer resilience. The other is investment in the development of new hybrid varietals. For the past 19 years, ECOM has shared a strong partnership with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) to develop and breed new hybrids.

“The two partners have long wanted to find solutions to the major challenges facing coffee growing, namely selecting varieties that are more productive and resilient to climate change and distributing them to as many producers as possible, and finding solutions for pesticide-free coffee growing,” says CIRAD Arabica breeder Jean-Christophe Breitler.

“ECOM group was immediately aware of these issues and was ready for this long adventure. A formal agreement was signed 20 years ago at the Paris Agricultural Show in February 2002.”

CIRAD researcher and co-coordinator of Breeding Coffee for Agroforestry Systems, Hervé Étienne, says ECOM and CIRAD have selected F1 hybrid varieties whose agronomic performance currently places them among the best varieties in the world. He says they are more productive, more resilient to climatic stresses and diseases and have exceptional cup quality.

“The popular varietals that have had the most impact are the Centroamericano, Mundo Maya and Starmaya Arabica F1 hybrids. In addition to its interesting agronomic performance, Starmaya has the advantage of being distributable in seed form,” says Étienne.

“Much progress has been made for the large-scale dissemination of these new hybrid varieties, and the industrialisation of the production through different multiplication techniques is underway. ECOM and CIRAD are aiming for a market of about 100 million Arabica hybrids on the different continents within five years.”

The diversified catalogue of coffee varieties produced, such as popular varietal Marsellesa, offers an unmatched choice to clients and farmers in the ECOM SMS program, a core strategy developed to help manage ECOM’s clients’ sustainability needs.

“By implementing tailored programs and providing tools and solutions to producers, SMS can support smallholder farmers in sustainable practices while being productive. It also provides clients with increased traceability in their supply chain,” says Rimaud.

“We promote a sustainable way to foster farms’ renovations and to mitigate the impact of climate change.”

To accomplish the final commitment to manage traceability, ECOM is ensuring responsibility in its supply chains.

“When we understand something, we can improve it. That is why having traceable supply chains is crucial to sourcing responsible produce,” says Bossolasco.

“Supply chain management is at the core of ECOM’s activities as a commodities trader. But with many farmers living in remote areas with reduced access to tools and resources, responsible practices can sometimes come second to simply reaching markets for produce.”

In addition to geographical remoteness, Rimaud says the complexity of the supply chain poses challenges, with many different intermediaries at each point along the chain.

“Traceability is a vital tool in helping us achieve supply chain oversight. ECOM is working with different actors in the supply chain to digitise every step of the product’s journey,” he says.

“Together with new technologies and our commitment to certification, ECOM is continuing to achieve greater visibility of our activities, even across the most complex and indirect supply chains.”

ECOM is dedicated to conducting business in an ethical, legal, environmental, and socially responsible manner. With a mindset of continual improvement, the global commodity trader regularly assesses policies to ensure alignment with best practice in ethical business conduct.

“We’re an origins-based business, driven by people. For our farmers, we’re there on the ground to create shared value and help where it counts. For our customers, the reach and expertise of our global network creates supply chains they can rely on. And through constant innovation, we find solutions that help us and our partners meet their sustainability goals,” Rimaud says.

Bossolasco agrees, saying the future of coffee starts at origin.

“As experts at origin, with exceptional global coverage, true depth of knowledge and an innovative, entrepreneurial mindset, ECOM supports farmers, forges alliances, and finds sustainable new ways to grow, harvest and mill,” says Bossolasco.

“Because we’re there at the beginning, we help shape what’s next, allowing roasters big and small, mainstream and artisan, to anticipate and master change. We make the connections that help give coffee its next kick.”

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This article was first published in the January/February 2023 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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