Market Reports

Global Coffee Platform Executive Director Annette Pensel on hope for change in 2021

Annette Pensel

While 2020 proved no crystal ball is accurate, GCR invited industry leaders to share their hopes, ambitions, and predictions for 2021, in what is likely to be a defining year for the international coffee market.

2021 is a year with hope for change – hope that the soon-available vaccines will change the dynamics of the global pandemic and hope that governments use the unique chance to boldly align recovery plans and policies with climate science. This would help unlock climate solutions in new ways and achieve net zero emissions by mid-century. And for the coffee sector, there is hope that the younger generations will help propel the transformation of our sector to a sustainable, thriving, and resilient future. 

“Sustainability” has never before been so noticeable in our lives, and while we see increasing concerns in our sector about the lack of interest in coffee farming by the younger generation, we know that young people really care about social and environmental issues. Companies are increasingly embracing sustainability as it is becoming a license to operate. And discussions around due diligence legislation are advancing, for example in Europe. 

However, even with this hopeful outlook, we need to address the systemic issues: the gap between countries with efficient, profitable coffee production systems and supply chains, and those with less efficient and profitable ones, has been increasing. With the persistent low coffee price levels and additional impact from the pandemic, the livelihoods of millions of coffee farming families will be affected even more. This development aggravates the high risk of losing origin diversity if our sector continues with business as usual. 

What we need now is urgency. We need to turn the international talks about shared responsibility into more powerful action that drives sustainability with clear benefits for coffee farming communities. We must find locally owned, scalable solutions to the economic viability of sustainable coffee farming and farmers’ prosperity amid changing climatic conditions to make coffee growing an attractive option for the next generations. It is time to include economic prosperity and well-being of coffee farmers not only in corporate sustainability strategies but also in procurement strategies.

While in many coffee producing countries, the challenges of sustainability and profitability continue to mount, the good news is that we need not start from scratch. There is not only hope, but already results. Through the likes of GCP’s Collective Action Initiatives, stakeholders from across the value chain and public sectors are proving that collaboration with urgency is not only possible, but already impactful. It is through leveraging each other’s strengths, that we have a real shot at a thriving and sustainable coffee sector. 

Written by Annette Pensel, Executive Director of Global Coffee Platform.

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