Achieving Sustainable Development in the Coffee Sector

Coffee is the world’s favorite beverage, with an estimated 400 billion cups consumed per year. Coffee provides livelihoods for at least 60 million people, across dozens of countries. Coffee is healthful. For these and other reasons, promoting the long-term health, wellbeing, and environmental sustainability of the much beloved coffee sector should be a clear priority.

Yet coffee is experiencing a sustainability crisis, stemming from unsustainable economic, social, and environmental aspects of coffee production. The recent decline in world coffee prices has further squeezed coffee producers, and thrown a tremendous number of producers below the global extreme poverty line. While many consumers willingly pay high prices for coffee, coffee farmers receive a tiny fraction of that retail price. Producers are price-takers in a global market that has turned against them. These sustained low prices hurt even more as coffee producers begin to bear the brunt of climate change and variability.

CCSI and advisory board chair Professor Jeffrey Sachs were commissioned by the World Coffee Producers Forum to assess—and to provide proposals for addressing— sustainability within the coffee sector, particularly from the perspective of producers’ economic sustainability. Our full report, Ensuring Economic Viability and Sustainability of Coffee Production, presents the results of our research, including our analytical and empirical modeling, and provides several recommendations. These recommendations include: developing country-specific National Coffee Sustainability Plans, establishing a Global Coffee Fund to finance sustainability investments and leverage additional public funding, and exploring additional ways to increase producer profits that take advantage of current market dynamics and new opportunities offered by e-commerce.

Download the report (155 pages, including appendices)

Download the summary (7 pages)

CCSI hosted a webinar with Professor Jeffrey Sachs and some co-authors of the report on October 21, 2019. The recording is available here and below. Additional answers to questions asked but not answered during the webinar are available here.