How the coffee industry is fighting climate change
[You won’t believe who’s leading the charge]
If you’re among the 60% of Americans who drink coffee daily, chances are you’re familiar with Starbucks.
To some, Starbucks represents the corporate take over; the dominion of mass business; the oppressor of all that is grassroots. To be honest, the last thing any neighborhood coffee shop wants is a Starbucks opening up across the street.
But what you may not know about Starbucks is that they are going to help the coffee industry survive climate change.
Not just for their own benefit. They’re doing this for the small business, too.
According to a recent article written by Justin Worland and published in Time Magazine, Starbucks is spearheading a massive initiative to combat climate change by taking the fight to frontlines: farmlands across the “coffee belt.”
“Everybody talks about climate, but the only sector that’s actually doing something at scale is the coffee industry,” said M. Sanjayan, the CEO of Conservation International, to Justin Worland while touring the Starbucks farm in Alajuela, Costa Rica.
Sounds too good to be true…
We thought the same, but fortunately, it’s not the case. With a budget and global presence as vast as Starbucks,’ it would be simple to respond to climate change by going where the harvest is. For instance, if one farm turns unproductive, Starbucks could just buy from a competitor.
That’s just a short-term solution disguised as good business, though. The threat of climate change would worsen, more challenges would form and more harvests would suffer. Eventually, coffee would die and end up a luxury for the rich.
We don’t want that. Coffee is meant to be shared and enjoyed with people. Coffee is meant to be social.
The world agrees (and fortunately so does Starbucks). The amount of daily coffee drinkers worldwide is growing. It is estimated that the population of coffee-lovers will double by 2050.
The double-edged sword?
About 1/2 the land used to produce coffee may also become unproductive by 2050 if we don’t do something about it. About 88% of those farms would be in Latin America.
Starbucks to the rescue? Thought we’d never say those words on this blog.
In 2013, Starbucks invested in coffee-producing countries by putting boots on the ground. Yes, actual people. They now have support centers in nine countries – a number they say could triple in the coming years – and a 10-year, $500 million investment fund that supports sustainability programs, such as adaptation training for farmers and testing new coffee varieties.
That’s just the beginning. The really cool part of all this: they’re sharing everything they learn with other businesses, suppliers, growers, and environmentalists regardless of their association with the Starbucks brand.
They’re giving everything they learn away for free (all $500 million worth).
What’s really at stake?
Rising temperatures kill! Dramatic, yes. Factual, scarily so.
Hotter temperatures worldwide will result in drought and a whole range of diseases that will kill large populations of insects essential for coffee plant pollination. The honey bee crisis was terrible enough. This is like a swift kick to the shins.
In summary, there will be a lot of tired people commuting to work on Monday mornings (that’s a whole potential catastrophe in itself).
Coffee companies are already coming together to create solutions that will preserve the quality of coffee while keeping it accessible to hundreds of millions of people every single day.
This global union is awesome. Together, these companies and organizations are working alongside local farmers to help them better adapt to changing conditions. They are providing seeds, monitoring production, suggesting new methods and even creating drought-resistant seeds in laboratories.
According to Justin Worland, “Starbucks says it is eager to share the lessons it learns about adaptive farming with coffee growers around the globe. For big coffee companies buying from a variety of small suppliers, the argument goes, there’s no value in trying to gain a competitive advantage by hoarding trade secrets.”
If that isn’t music to your ears, then perhaps our artisan tea selection is more for you. If you’re a coffee-lover, however, rejoice!
Wells Coffees — our supplier — roasts coffee grown in these regions.
Starbucks is shifting a huge portion of their business model to make sure small business like them — and BREW — continue to help people connect over flavorful blends of rich coffee.
For that, we say toast your next cup of BREW in their honor. 🙂