Best Tchibo coffees – Now and into the future
Tchibo has offered its customers top quality coffee for over 60 years. Flavour and taste are very important to us – and we want to live up to this aspiration in future as well. That is why we are committed to maintaining and continually improving the conditions for the cultivation of high-quality coffees. We work with coffee farmers and standards organisations to promote sustainable, yield-increasing farming practices. We are also involved in cooperation across organisations and borders – as many structural challenges in the coffee industry can only be resolved by working together.
Tchibo is on its way to becoming a 100% sustainable business. So in the medium term, we want to offer only coffee qualities whose cultivation complies with economic, ecological and social requirements in equal measure. This is the only way we can contribute to safeguarding the livelihoods of coffee farmers and their families. That is why we take a comprehensive approach to advocating the sustainable development of the coffee supply chain and the entire coffee sector.
Ensuring the highest quality - Supporting producers on the ground
Tchibo coffee is characterised by the highest standards of quality and freshness. We use the best beans from high-quality Arabica coffee plants for our coffee. For our Espresso range of products we also use Robusta coffee to achieve the ‘typical’ espresso flavour. The beans are grown in the ‘coffee belt’ along the equator in South and Central America, Africa and Asia – mostly in developing and emerging countries. In order to offer our customers consistently high-quality coffee, we maintain good, longstanding supplier relationships with exporters and traders from the producing countries. Our coffee experts are regularly on-site to ensure the quality of the green coffee and inform themselves about growing conditions.
One special feature of the coffee sector is the high proportion of smallholders among the producers. Four-fifths of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers generally cultivate less than two hectares of land each. To secure their livelihoods, they usually grow other agricultural products besides coffee or lease out their land and work additional jobs. Their resources are as limited as their access to knowledge, technology and financial resources. Many lack expertise in environmentally friendly growing methods that prevent long-term soil exhaustion. As a result, their yields diminish over time and the quality of the green coffee suffers. In the long run, this jeopardises the coffee farmers’ livelihoods. Given these conditions, young people in particular lack incentives to continue growing coffee. So to achieve sustainable development in the coffee sector, it is crucial to improve the situation of smallholders in the growing regions.
Achieving sustainable coffee cultivation, step by step
With this in mind, our approach to sustainable development in the coffee sector begins with the smallholders. In particular, we help them to safeguard the quality of their green coffee and increase their yields. Only then will they eventually be in a situation to convert their operations to more sustainable farming practices. We see this evolution among the coffee farmers as a gradual process whose aim is sustainable coffee farming in the spirit of Tchibo’s sustainability concept. Specifically, this means:
- The income from cultivating coffee enables present and future generations of farmers to earn a living and provide their families with a good standard of living (economic sustainability).
- The coffee farmers safeguard the ecological bases of cultivation such as soil fertility and the water supply (environmental sustainability). They are equipped with the necessary knowledge to adapt to the repercussions of climate change (environmental sustainability).
- Their integration and involvement in production and marketing cooperatives facilitates coffee farmers’ market access and the transfer of knowledge, e.g. about farming methods (social sustainability). At the same time, we support the development and testing of models that contribute to more stable local social structures, for instance through educational programmes for women and children.
Our strategic approaches
We want to contribute to making sure that more and more coffee farmers meet these criteria and include all Tchibo coffees in our sustainability concept in the medium term. To achieve this, our efforts include:
- Training smallholders as part of our Tchibo Joint Forces!® training programme
- Increasing the sourcing of green coffee that is validated and certified according to recognised standards, and
- Cross-sector collaboration to address and solve structural challenges.
Tchibo Joint Forces!®: Joining forces to offer qualification programmes
Most smallholders lack the necessary know-how to make their businesses more sustainable. Therefore, since 2012 with the Tchibo Joint Forces!® (TJF) qualification programme together with local partners we have offered coffee farmers special training sessions. In five consecutive modules, we teach them how they can increase their productivity, profitability and product quality. All coffee farmers who successfully complete the programme receive additional validation or certification according to the requirements of the relevant internationally recognised standards organisations, the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, UTZ Certified or 4C Association. As a result they meet important ecological and social requirements and improve their marketing opportunities.
By the end of 2014, around 30,000 coffee farmers from six countries had already achieved certification or validation by participating in the Tchibo Joint Forces!® programme. Tchibo benefits as well: we offer the project participants a long-term collaboration that also includes buying the sustainable raw coffee on fair terms. We are currently planning two more Tchibo Joint Forces!® projects in Brazil and Guatemala. (Tchibo Joint Forces!® Qualification Programme)
Internationally recognised standards for more sustainable coffee cultivation
We can positively influence the expansion of sustainable growing practices by purchasing raw coffee from farms that have been certified or validated by internationally recognised standards organisations. When selecting these organisations, we are careful to ensure that their requirements are coordinated in dialogue with all the relevant stakeholders and are continually evolved. They must also actively support local farmers in the implementation of their standards. We currently purchase raw coffees that are certified compliant with the criteria of the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, UTZ Certified and the EU Bio label organisations, or validated according to the baseline standards of the 4C Association. We have increased the share of validated and certified green coffee we process from 8% in 2008 to around 35% in 2014. Our goal for 2015 is a further increase to 40%. (Purchasing sustainable green coffee grades)
Alliances for better conditions
We work closely with regional, national and international protagonists in the coffee industry to create the conditions for more sustainable coffee production at a structural level as well. Together we work to improve the infrastructure in the producing countries, facilitate coffee farmers' access to credit and markets, and provide them with knowledge on how to handle climate change. In our cross-sector approach we pursue three priorities to improve the situation for coffee farmers:
- Cooperation to promote sustainable farming methods
- Initiatives to protect the environment and slow down climate change
Educational projects in the regions of origin
Among other things, we participate in the Sustainable Coffee Programme (SCP), an alliance of major stakeholders from politics, industry, associations and NGOs. It is based on a Dutch government initiative (Initiatief Duurzame Handel – IDH) and develops region-specific approaches to solving structural challenges in the coffee-growing countries, such as smallholders’ access to knowledge about good agricultural practice, or market conditions. Tchibo is a founding member of the SCP and is represented on the Steering Committee alongside other coffee sector companies. The objective of the SCP is to further network the different alliances and programmes in the coffee sector. (Cooperation to promote sustainable farming methods)
The structural challenges in the coffee sector are exacerbated by climate change. In order to achieve good long-term returns from high-quality green coffee, coffee farmers must adapt their farming practices to the consequences of global warming. Temperature increases lead not only to erosion, landslides and water shortages, but also to increased infestation of plants by pests and diseases. Therefore, more resistant coffee plants and optimised farming methods are needed, for example. We are working with other companies in the coffee industry, standards organisations, and smallholders who have already undergone training to pass on the required knowledge to other coffee producers. To this end, we have participated in the Coffee & Climate development partnership since it was founded in 2010. (Environment & Climate)
Education is a key contributor to improving the living conditions of coffee farmers and their families. That is why, as part of its social commitment, Tchibo has launched education projects with selected partners in the producing countries of Guatemala and Kenya according to the principle of ‘helping people to help themselves’. The offers are addressed at coffee farmers and their families.(Educational projects at source)