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As Green as Possible: Tackling Sustainability Issues in Coffee Production

Updated: Mar 1

At Bean United, part of our vision is to believe in the power of coffee to bring people together and to make a positive change in the world - hence our idea and our model to create social impact with every cup. But, as you know, coffee is more than a morning ritual; it is a global industry that can either continue to contribute to social injustice and environmental degradation or be a force of positive change.

Green hills and blue skies with coffee being harvested in Burundi.

Sustainability issues in the coffee industry

Let us take a closer look at sustainability issues in coffee production: In general, it is essential to be aware of the threats to our environment caused - among others - by the production of coffee, such as deforestation to make way for coffee plantations, water shortage due to potential excessive water use or pesticide and chemical use, not to mention questionable working conditions and the ecological footprint of transportation.

Which steps does Bean United take?

Potential threats to the environment are real challenges in the coffee industry. However, they can be addressed with conscious choices and actions. We at Bean United work every day to make our coffee as sustainable as possible. The measures we take on this behalf extend to all areas of daily operations and begin with the selection of coffee farmers. As opposed to working with fincas that produce coffee as cheaply as possible, we work with farmers who strive to work in harmony with the soil and the environment in general. In addition, many coffee fincas are mixed forests which makes them C02-negative because the trees and plants convert C02 into oxygen.

"Our farms are Rainforest Alliance certified. Furthermore, most of our production is from natural coffee, not using water during the post-harvest-process. We also use organic compounds at our farms, to make the soil and trees healthier and use less chemical products" (Rômulo Andrade, Chief Operating Officer at Capim Branco)

Long lines of green coffee being grown in Brazil beneath a blue sky.

This approach does not end in the areas and countries where our coffee is cultivated but continues when the coffee reaches Germany and our roasting partner Wildkaffee who also attaches great importance to sustainability and ecological awareness. This is reflected in the processing and the roasting of the green coffee. For example, the coffee is roasted in a very energy-efficient roaster which requires far less gas than other roasters. Also, due to the elimination of the usually required secondary burner, greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.

Packaging is also an issue that needs to be addressed. The shipping of our coffee is carried out in boxes that are made of 35% grass and 65% recycled paper - a positive contrast to conventional packaging materials.

A man pouring freshly picked coffee cherries into a machine.

Compensation and looking to the future

It is a fact that coffee production is per se not sustainable. However, we are working on making it as green as possible every day. As a part of this goal, we compensate the entire transport in addition to the already described measures. This ensures that we have a positive impact on the environment in an industry that is challenging for our planet. Also, it is currently part of our plans to work with projects with a positive ecological and social impact and that exceed mere compensation. For example, projects that support subsistence agriculture where plants are grown for their positive environmental impact but also to feed communities.

Green hills in Burundi, coffee is being harvested by people in colourful clothing.

Everyday life at Bean United and coffee consumption

Besides the more apparent areas of roasting and shipping, we make sure to make everyday working conditions as sustainable as possible. Driven by this purpose, Bean United is a member of the Economy for the Common Good (German: Gemeinwohlökonomie, GWÖ), an economic model and network that connects and supports companies on the issues of economic justice, climate justice and equal rights. The impact of a business is evaluated regularly in a transparent way, highlighting the development and the status quo to both the company itself and to external parties/people.

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As a part of being an active member of the Economy for the Common Good, Bean United pays close attention to sustainability in everyday life. This is reflected, for example, in the use of green electricity both at the office and in our Social Café.

Last but not least, we encourage our customers to increase the sustainability of their coffee consumption. For this purpose, we don't offer single-use plastic or paper cups at our coffee shop but rely on a reusable and returnable packaging system.

As you can see, there are many potential pitfalls involved in coffee production. By embracing sustainable practices and ethical sourcing, we strive to play a role in transforming the coffee industry.

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