Seven initiatives for the global coffee industry

Mankind is facing a globally integrated crisis. This crisis is getting more and more uncontrollable and unpredictable. The globalised world needs to “re-think, re-shape, and re-operate” under the guiding principle of sustainable development, centred on a Green Economy and a Knowledge Economy. This is an irreversible trend.

The latest global economic forum has once again reinforced this trend. The coffee industry can play a big role in this transformation. The coffee trade is global in nature, worth billions of dollars with 2.5 billion consumers worldwide. In it’s own way, the coffee industry relates to all aspects of human life. We cannot run away from the responsibility of re-thinking, re-shaping, and re-operating the nature of the global coffee industry.

Re-thinking, re-engineering (re-designing), and re-operating the coffee industry, in a fundamental and universal manner, needs to be based on our heritage and existing conditions. It needs to be done on the global stage to bring two strategic benefits. Firstly, the industry needs to resolve the root cause of its main challenges: unfair trading, speculation-opportunism, environmental decline and depression. Secondly, the global coffee industry needs to grasp unprecedented opportunities that are being presented to those who work in the coffee industry.

Looking at the development of the coffee industry helps in this regard. As does looking at current conditions to forecast future trends and strategic opportunities. We, at Trung Nguyen Group, propose the following seven initiatives as joint steps for our entire global coffee industry:

Initiative 1: Rethinking the concept of coffee. Innovation and transformation must come from ideas and reasoning. We need to rethink and break traditional concepts of coffee. We need to start thinking not only of coffee as one of the most popular drinks in the world after water, but as the heritage and legacy of mankind which has the potential to affect every aspect of our lives. It can fuel a new type of creativity – responsible creativity – and if we are creative and innovative enough, we will be able to overcome the challenges of every individual, organisation, and country. This new perspective can shape the coffee industry as a pioneering model of sustainable development.

Initiative 2: The vision of a global coffee community. The new concept of coffee mentioned above can serve as the basis for us to gather, connect and develop a global coffee community. This can be a community where political ideology, religion, nationality, race, gender, and language are irrelevant. It can be a community of more than 2.5 billion people. This can be a community of growers, traders, roasters and consumers, who look at coffee as the source of responsible creativity. These can be people who think about where their coffee comes from to ensure the sustainable development of the industry, and the prosperity of everyone along the chain. This community can unite to ensure the proper redistribution of wealth. This can be a strong community that will make unprecedented progress in human history.

Initiative 3: Diversifying the styles, habits, standards, and cultures of enjoying coffee. Preserving and developing a diverse range of ways to enjoy coffee is key to ensuring sustainable aggregate demand. This can limit speculation activities and work against any moves to define coffee to a single culture. Preserving and developing cultural diversity in coffee also means preserving the biological diversity of the planet. Arabica cannot be viewed as the single aspirational coffee, but Robusta must be elevated as well. There must be more than just American and Italian styles of coffee, but the traditions of Vietnam, Turkey, Ethiopia, Japan, and other coffee cultures must be celebrated. Roasted coffee brands from Europe and America cannot be the only ones to dominate the market, but brands from coffee-growing countries must be encouraged. Only when the distribution of brands is diversified across the globe can we ensure a truly global coffee culture. Coffee cannot be viewed as merely a drink, but also a food, cosmetic ingredient, pharmaceutical, therapeutic, and above all, an experience.

Initiative 4: A comprehensive approach towards an integrated coffee production chain. An enclosed coffee production chain, organised in a circle, must work without generating harmful waste that can damage the environment. Production must be optimised to make the best use of resources at every stage. Research and development can help us make the most of this amazing plant, to commercialise products made from coffee through scientific advances: high-end cosmetics, bio-energy, fertiliser, and materials for construction and household use.

Initiative 5: Fairness in the value exchange and distribution of the coffee industry. This initiative consists of two core tasks: Firstly, to link nations, associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) together with farmers in coffee growing countries. We need to push forward fair trade programs in a quick, sustainable, and efficient way. Secondly, we need to take the next step to create public financial institutions that allow farmers to gain a legitimate voice within the industry.

Initiative 6: Proactively forming agriculture-based standards in the global monetary system. This is indeed a very bold initiative, but not unrealistic. Most importantly, it’s absolutely necessary to bring real stability to the industry. Coffee is a vital global commodity, the second-most exchanged value in the world just after crude oil, with over 100 million families around the world depending on it for a living. Coffee requires a new global currency and standard which is more sustainable, to help contribute to economic and financial security, food security and the global environment. Coffee should be linked with other goods to create a global coffee standard currency system based on essential commodities from newly emerging economies (mainly agricultural products, and the products of biotechnology), minimising the risk of abuse of financial derivatives to the farmers detriment, as we have sadly seen in recent history.

Initiative 7: Building a flagship model geographically for the coffee industry. These six global initiatives have the power to create a great impact on the global coffee industry. They can help promote the process of transition to a sustainable development model. To begin the change, it’s necessary to have a pioneer and flagship model that can represent how these initiatives will unfold. We call it the coffee sanctuaries, or coffee paradises, where we can fully and profoundly integrate the application of the above initiatives. Trung Nguyen, as the leading coffee company in Vietnam – one of the world’s largest coffee producers – will take those first steps by proactively applying this flagship model.

These seven initiatives we’ve proposed are about creating synergy and healthy competition in the global coffee economic arena. They are also about bringing the world forward into a new era – an era of responsible creativity and sustainable development. Our vision is for an era where coffee fuels these changes needed, where coffee can act as a model for sustainable development. Let’s call it the coffee era. Let’s see all those who work in coffee stepping forward to create a model for sustainable development, in both an economic and environmental sense. Now, more than ever, we desperately need a form of interdependent solidarity, common beliefs, communal thinking and mutual action. Together, nothing is impossible.

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