Using Certification to Improve Livelihoods and Secure Future Coffee Supply

Kathrine Löfberg, chairman and fourth generation owner of Löfbergs
Kathrine Löfberg, chairman and fourth generation owner of Löfbergs

Written by Kathrine Löfberg, chairman and fourth generation owner of Löfbergs.

Löfbergs was founded in 1906 and is now one of the biggest coffee roasters in the Nordic region. We remain a family-owned company, now in its fourth generation. Our head office is situated in Karlstad, in the heart of Sweden, where we also have one of our roasting houses.

This year, Löfbergs celebrates 110 years and we have a clear vision that extends to 2050 and includes responsibility at all stages from bean to cup: for coffee farmers, employees, customers, consumers, citizens, partners and owners. Sustainability has always been at the core for our family business, and to improve the conditions for coffee farmers to secure future supply of quality coffee is our most important task. Every year we travel more than 150 days to meet the farmers and cooperatives that we buy our coffee from. On our journeys to the producing countries we see how climate change and variable world market prices are affecting crops and living conditions, but also see how certification, such as Rainforest Alliance certification, can result in more sustainable farming methods and increased income for the farmers. Almost half of the coffee we sell under our own brands now comes from certified farms, and we will reach 100% by 2020, with a large portion of the coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms.

Advancing sustainability is a central part of how we do business. It has become a strategic top priority for the board of directors and management. Enabling future generations of coffee farmers to stay in their family business is one of our greatest challenges in the journey of working toward our vision and developing the family business my great grandfather started 110 years ago. In Colombia, the average age of a coffee farmer is 57 years old and on our journeys, we meet an aging population of coffee farmers.  We need to help ensure that the next generation of coffee farmers sees a good future in coffee farming, and are willing to take over the family farm.

Smallholder coffee farmers account for about 2/3 of global coffee producers, but perform generally below their production potential – and lack incentive to change this. This, together with low income, is why the young generation is not interested in the coffee business as they see the return as not worth the effort. Even if the farmers want to invest in their farm, they often do not have access to credit and other relevant services to be able to do so.

Therefore, in 2001 we became one of the founders of International Coffee Partners that we now run together with 6 other European family-owned coffee companies. The vision is to make smallholder coffee farmers competitive on the basis of sustainable practices in order to improve livelihoods. Since we started, we have reached over 40,000 farmers and will reach 75,000 by 2018. Our business-oriented approach promotes entrepreneurship, requires commitment on the part of the farmers we work with, and enables them to improve their livelihood. This has resulted in great success in our projects where farmers have often doubled, or even tripled their income.

We have yet to find solution to the challenge of securing future generations of farmers, therefore this will be an area of focus for us as a company in coming years. We will call the initiative “Next Generation Coffee” and will start by supporting and sourcing great tasting coffee from two projects, one in Tanzania within the International Coffee Partners and one in Colombia within the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, who both focus on making it possible for the next generation of coffee growers to continue their livelihoods in coffee farming.

With this initiative, we want to make consumers and customers aware that the coffee they choose is essential for securing a good livelihood for the next generation of coffee farmers, and that this goes hand in hand with securing a good tasting cup of coffee for the future. In this work, certifications such as Rainforest Alliance play a crucial role and we look forward to a continuous fruitful cooperation with the Rainforest Alliance and all the farmers in its network that supply us and our customers with great tasting coffee, today and in the future.

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