Coffee Sustainability, Features, Origin

Sucafina reveals its 2030 sustainability strategy

Sucafina sustainability

Sucafina has publicly unveiled its 2030 sustainability strategy, reaffirming the coffee merchant’s commitment to a more sustainable coffee industry.

As the premier supplier of East African coffee and with operations in 32 countries, Sucafina prides itself on direct connections and relationships with producers. Sucafina Sustainability Manager Justin Archer tells Global Coffee Report that with such deep ties to farmers, it’s no surprise that sustainability plays a big part in its work at origin.

“We’ve built quite a robust business around working directly with farmers, owning several washing stations for a number of years. We’ve become firmly implanted in and connected to those communities,” Archer says.

“With so many of our own assets and resources in origin, a focus on sustainability and farmer livelihood became almost a necessity. Now, sustainability has become synonymous with Sucafina, and we’re seeing that connection open up new opportunities in different parts of the world.”

In October 2021, Sucafina released its inaugural sustainability report, titled Shared Value for a Better Future. The report outlines Sucafina’s past and existing work towards sustainability, significant changes in 2020, and the trader’s 2030 sustainability strategy.

The strategy profiles three pillars under which its other goals and areas of focus fall: Caring for People, Investing in Farmers, and Protecting Our Planet. Archer says while no pillar is more important than the others, Investing in Farmers is the central pillar the strategy rests on.

“There’s a slight risk that the coffee industry’s increased focus on environmental concerns could make us forget that, ultimately, this is a people business and there’s a very human centred aspect of what we do. If farmers can’t believe in a vision of economic development for themselves, they’re not going to be able to help us tackle environmental and social issues,” Archer says.

“Hence the need to make sure that we tackle things like price volatility, access to finance, good technical advice for farmers, and support for communities. Unless we can address these, the industry is probably not going to make much headway in terms of addressing long-term environmental challenges.”

Currently, Sucafina can identify 171,000 farmers in its global supply chain, at least half of which receive ongoing training and support. Under Investing in Farmers, the coffee company intends to double the size of its farmer network to 350,000 producers worldwide by 2025. 

Archer says this does not necessarily mean doubling the size of the business and will involve increasing the transparency and traceability that can sometimes be lost when dealing with intermediaries.

“To support that effort, we are going to be looking at putting in place long-term farmer financing solutions. We’re working with our commercial banking partners to see if we can establish a dedicated farmer financing facility, which will hopefully be something to the tune of US$30 million within a couple years’ time,” he says.

Sucafina is also exploring ways it can ensure price stability for coffee farmers, with the goal to source one million bags of green coffee per year under some form of price guarantee mechanism that rewards them for sustainable farming practices by 2025.

“We’re gathering new data on living income thresholds in our supply chains to try to figure out what role some form of price stabilisation or floor prices could play with some of our committed roasting and financial partners,” Archer says.

“Especially after the recent frost [in Brazil,] there is probably no better time than now to look at how we can implement minimum prices for some farmers who are adhering to certain sustainable social practices that we could design similar programs going forward.”

Under the Caring for People pillar, Archer says Sucafina aims to support its employees, farmers and supply chain workers, and global coffee communities.

“The first point is making sure that as an employer, we can continue supporting our employees around the world and invest in them and their welfare. This ensures that there’s a high motivation to work for Sucafina and that our employees are able to express their career objectives in the work they do every day,” he explains.

“On a personal level, this element is important to maintain this passion that we have for sustainability as a group within our ranks.”

From the people within the company to those Sucafina works with, Archer says Sucafina is committing to ensuring human rights are maintained across its supply chains.

In 2020, all of Sucafina’s own operations in East Africa were internally audited and no human rights violations were reported across the entire group. In addition, audits were performed in eight out of 13 of its origin operations with no human rights abuses reported. Sucafina says audits were or will be performed in the five remaining countries in 2021, some of which are new operations for the group.

“As we expand around the globe, it’s crucial the human rights within the fence of our business are maintained to the highest possible standard,” Archer says. “Even outside the fence of our own business, we will continue to play a strong education, advocacy, and monitoring role on human rights when it comes to supply chain workers.”

Ensuring the wellbeing of the communities surrounding Sucafina’s coffee producing partners is a natural progression of its commitments to farmers.

“In many of the places we were work, particularly in East Africa, it’s impossible to distinguish coffee smallholders from the wider community in which they live and exist,” Archer says.

“We have a history in our group, either through our foundation or working directly with some of our partners of investing in community focused solutions. Be it health, education, or something unique to that community, this is something very dear to our hearts that we will continue doing. We also have a lot of roaster customers who are actually quite keen to support this work and often challenge us to help make community investments in the supply chain.”

The final pillar of Sucafina’s 2030 sustainability strategy – Protecting Our Planet – will see the coffee trader focus on three main activities: reducing carbon emissions, minimising water usage, and tackling deforestation.

“We want to help roasters meet their own carbon emission targets, but at the same time, really ensure that this value accrues back to the farmers who are going to have to be making some of this investment and probably in some cases changing the way they grow coffee over time,” Archer says.

“There’re also some bold statements on where we’d like to be in a couple years in terms of wastewater treatment in washing stations. We own more than 50 washing stations worldwide and they are already certified under multiple standards, but we think we have the potential to go much further, pushing the boundaries of the amount of water that’s used in coffee processing and ensuring absolutely zero risk of contamination from wastewater going back into the environment.”

Sucafina is currently mapping the farm to free-on-board carbon footprint of its supply chains in different origins, ensuring its washing stations meet World Bank standards on wastewater emissions by the end of 2023, and that its direct supply chains are deforestation free by 2030.

Sucafina will use the Global Reporting Initiative standards to hold itself accountable to the commitments it has outlined in its 2030 sustainability strategy in its ongoing annual report. Archer says while sustainability has always been core to Sucafina, this is its first time making public commitments.

“Making a public announcement of our long-term strategy exposes us to criticism and inspection down the road, but we want to invite that pressure on ourselves,” Archer says.

“There’s an awful lot of work ahead of us, but we won’t be doing it alone. Releasing this strategy publicly sends a clear message to roasters, donors, and non-governmental organisations that we’re here to collaborate, with transparency and traceability, to create a more sustainable coffee industry.”

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This article was first published in the January/February 2022 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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