Features, Profiles, Sustainability

Neumann Kaffee Gruppe on its commitment to sustainable coffee

Neumann Kaffee Gruppe explains how its NKG Verified initiative exemplifies its commitment to a growing sustainable coffee industry.

Finding solutions that benefit both its customers and producers is key for green coffee service group Neumann Kaffee Gruppe (NKG).

As part of the company’s active commitment to integrity and responsibility throughout the coffee supply chain, it has created NKG Verified to bridge the gap between coffee growers and buyers.

“NKG Verified is part of our Responsible Business Program and contributes to our objective to enhance sustainability performance within our supply chains. It also offers consumers the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee sourced via sustainable and ethical practices,” says NKG Sustainability Manager Paula Mejia.

Among other projects, this Program fuels NKG’s ambition to grow a sustainable coffee industry in the future, with specific goals that define responsible and viable business practices.The group’s Brazilian coffee exporter, NKG Stockler, first launched NKG Verified in Brazil in 2021.

The program was implemented to provide traceable coffees from farms that comply with specific criteria, including those based on forests and ecosystems, prohibited pesticides, no child or forced labour, school attendance, and continuous improvement. It also addresses principles such as production and processing practices, pricing, minimum wage, drinking water, waste management, and energy use.

As of December 2023, NKG Verified has been implemented in 10 countries and has impacted more than 30,000 farmers in Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya, and Uganda. NKG will continue to expand its supply chains, and is currently preparing to establish new NKG Verified supply chains in Costa Rica and Tanzania.

“We wanted to offer customers insights into the economic, social, and environmental performance of the farms producing their coffees. We also wanted to provide sustainability assurance through internal and third-party audits from farm to export level, and align with industry standards that integrate easily into customers’ sustainability plans,” Mejia says.

“Supply chain entities must comply with the critical criteria, which are based on Global Coffee Platform’s (GCP) Coffee Sustainability Reference Code. This provides stakeholders with a simplified and fit-for-purpose framework to foster better understanding of principles that support baseline sustainable coffee production. It also addresses ongoing challenges in the coffee sustainability landscape, as well as key emerging concerns such as climate change, diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Each coffee shipment through NKG Verified comes with a transaction certificate and a sustainability report on the supply chain. Annual internal audits and external audits every three years assure the minimum criteria are met, and performance is tracked.

Image: Neumann Kaffee Gruppe

Mejia says the initiative covers the full supply chain, from the farm to the export-ready container. She says the starting point and focus are the farms growing the coffee, but it doesn’t stop there.

“NKG Verified criteria also applies to independent operators handling or processing the coffee, farmer groups, and our own export companies. Each container gets linked back to specific supply chains and comes with a sustainability scorecard showing the performance of the supply chain against our NKG Verified criteria,” Mejia says.

NKG Verified has been recognised by GCP as Coffee Sustainability Reference Code equivalent, second party assurance, which is a sector-wide reference on the foundations of sustainability in economic, social, and environmental dimensions for green coffee production and primary processing worldwide. GCP developed the Equivalence Mechanism as a framework to assess whether a scheme can be considered equivalent to the Coffee Sustainability Reference Code.

“We participated in the Equivalence Mechanism 2.0 to ensure stakeholders that NKG Verified meets the baseline sustainability practices of the coffee sector. With the recognition, we provide additional assurance to customers interested in purchasing NKG Verified coffees under sustainable sourcing practices with transparency and rigour,” Mejia says.

NKG Bloom is another of NKG’s global initiatives that focuses on improving smallholders’ livelihoods and also offers supply chain traceability. It has also been recognised as Coffee Sustainability Reference Code equivalent, second party assurance.

NKG Bloom aims to ensure the future of green coffee supplies by offering smallholder farmers and farmer groups the opportunities and resources they need to run their farms at full potential, optimise their incomes for long-term success, and enter pathways out of poverty.

“Through dedicated teams within our export companies, NKG Bloom identifies and addresses barriers to farmer success and offers individuals and farmer groups bespoke combinations of services centred around financing.”

NKG Bloom’s goal is to improve the livelihoods of 300,000 coffee-farming families across 10 countries by 2030.

“NKG is proud of the work of our local teams, who are supporting smallholder farmers on the ground to reach their full potential. Worldwide, over 250 staff are working on solutions for local activities,” says Mejia.

Both NKG Bloom and NKG Verified align with and contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which support economic growth through decent working conditions and responsible production.

NKG Verified and NKG Bloom further support green coffee buyers in fulfilling their legal obligations such as those required by the German Supply Chain Act, the European Union Regulation on Deforestation-free Products (EUDR) [on track for alignment by Q3 2024], or the upcoming Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive.

Mejia says NKG’s global network of more than 60 countries and over 3200 highly skilled employees makes the green coffee service group particularly strong and flexible in responding to change.

“While we operate globally, we have our own teams on the ground in most important exporting and importing markets, which gives us a local view of developments and enables us to respond to challenges on short notice,” she says.

“We will continue to build on these strengths and create synergies as a group in the face of increasing challenges, so that everyone along the value chain can make a living from coffee in the long-term.”

Mejia says NKG Verified is eager to work with even more green coffee buyers and tailor its services to suit their needs.

“We invite them to engage with us to gain a deeper supply chain understanding and to use our existing supplier networks and expertise to further their sustainable initiatives,” she says.

For more information, visit nkg.coffee

This article was first published in the May/June 2024 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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