SCAA Chronicle: Sustainability is Dead. Long Live Sustainability! by Peter Giuliano

Peter Giuliano, director of coffee and co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee (a member of World Coffee Research) and immediate past president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, writes in the Specialty Coffee Chronicle. Read the following excerpt and follow the link at the bottom to the read the full article.

“I was a young coffee person when the concept of sustainability became big news in coffee. In those days—the roaring ’90s of coffee—the idea of thinking in the long-term about agriculture and about industry seemed fresh, exciting and different. The concept of acting in the interest of the long haul, and looking at the bigger picture of economic interdependence and environmental impact was downright revolutionary. The organic agricultural movement—binding together farmers who treated their farm like an ecosystem and refused to damage its soil with synthetic agrochemicals—spread to coffee farmers, and organic coffees began to be widely available.

Fair Trade, which addressed the idea of economic empowerment for small coffee farmers, was an exciting way to grapple with the nagging reality of poverty among coffee producers, and the disparities between the places that produce coffee and those that consume it. Shade-grown coffee, a technique of coffee production that mimics the natural environment as perfectly as possible, was seen as a way to preserve nature and produce delicious coffee at the very same time. It all seemed so new, so logical, so possible. 

The name that most neatly connected all of these ideas was sustainability. What a perfect conceptual construct: the idea that any action must be considered in terms of the possibility of its ability to be sustained over time. Damaging the environment is unsustainable, since a damaged environment will not produce coffee in the future. Poverty among coffee farmers is unsustainable, since any human who cannot feed his family by his labors will choose another livelihood or perish. Organic agriculture, Fair Trade, and Shade Grown—and the other exciting ideas that blossomed in coffee during the ’90s—were gathered together under this rubric of sustainability, and their sheer logic gripped everyone. So logical it was, in fact, that for the next decade the concept grew like wildfire in coffee. All kinds of coffee companies embraced sustainability in a variety of ways, and identified a new kind of consumer called LOHAS: Lifestyle Of Health And Sustainability.”

Read the rest of the article at the Specialty Coffee Chronicle’s website >>

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