By Adam Pesce, Director of Coffee, Reunion Island Coffee
Deciding on this year’s Sustainability Award winner was one of the most difficult in recent memory, not just because of the volume of applications – a record setting 18 – but because of the quality of the applications. Of the 18 entries, quite literally all of them were of an award-winning, recognition-worthy caliber.
This year’s applicants included projects focusing on food security, water security, reforestation, renewable energy, climate change, capacity building, global partnerships, and getting more money into the hands of producers – all of which reaffirms the specialty coffee community’s commitment to the Millennium development goals that we pledged to help reach over five years ago.
The top three finalists’ scores were with within several hundredths of a point of each other. And while that made awarding just one prize difficult, it is also telling of the progress that specialty coffee has made – that 18 applicants, and really so many more in specialty coffee, exude an understanding of the fact that the risks of action far outweigh the risks of inaction, and that we are an industry that fully believes that sustainability is not just a feeble marketing concept – it is both a moral and a functional imperative.
The top three applications included amazing projects from Utz Certified and Café Femenino that are equal parts scalable, inspiring, and innovative. Utz’s Energy From Water project takes waste from the coffee extraction process and converts it into a viable alternative gas, enabling coffee farmers to reduce their overall costs and secure more economic and agricultural sustainability.
Café Femenino’s Food Security Initiative has its sights set on eliminating hunger from the coffeelands of Peru through a number of projects, including educational workshops, family gardens, the re-introduction of quinoa grain, and food storage and conservation programs.
Of all the problems we face in our industry, food security may well be one our greatest and most important challenges, affecting over 900 million people worldwide – many of them coffee producers living through the thin months between harvests. Pueblo a Pueblo’s project wasn’t the biggest project we saw, or the one that reached the most people, but it is the kind of small, scalable project that is laser-focused on the crucial arena of food security for coffee families, and is capable of a much larger, rippling effect throughout the coffee world.
All of this is representative of a key factor that those of us whose lives are dependent on the work of coffee producers must keep in mind as responsible members of the international coffee community. With our wide reach, influence, and the inherent connection that exists between the producers and consumers of coffee – our capacity to effect real and positive change in the world is limited only by our willingness to do so. This award, and the work our council does, is all about coffee’s seemingly unfailing and endless willingness.
Adam Pesce is the Director of Coffee at Reunion Island Coffee, a Canadian specialty roaster and wholesaler. He is a member of the SCAA’s Sustainability Council, on the board of directors at Grounds for Health, executive director of First Drop Canada, and coffee blogger for the Huffington Post. As the Director of Coffee at Reunion Island, Adam has spearheaded sustainability initiatives, including the use of 100% renewable energy and their Sierra Verde tree-planting project.
The Impact of Winning – From the 2013 Sustainability Award Recipient
Receiving this award gave Pueblo a Pueblo the power of recognition in an industry that is not always aware of the grassroots efforts supporting families and communities at coffee origin. One of the overwhelming benefits has been the marketing, publicity, and networking that I was able to benefit from as a recipient of receiving the award. Through both the Symposium and the Expo, I met potential program partners/supporters and gained more visibility for Pueblo a Pueblo. Often times small NGOs struggle to establish recognition and credibility. This award has the potential to open doors and to have a greater impact on the growth of our organization. Being able to share our work and have validation of accomplishments and having a platform at the SCAA’s Expo enabled me to reach more industry leaders that have an interest in improving lives at coffee origin.
Attending Symposium was the highlight. The speakers and topics were dynamic and provided me with new knowledge and insight into the specialty coffee industry and issues in the supply chain. I would definitely choose to participate in future Symposiums. The internal advantages of being an Award recipient were equally important for us, from the focus on implementation practices and the corresponding impact, to the pride and morale boost from winning, to the feedback from our donors and supporters. We believe the award helps validate what we do in Guatemala and enhances our ability to attract and keep good people in our organization. – Rosemary Trent, Executive Director at Pueblo a Pueblo
2013 Top 3 Finalists
The SCAA’s Sustainability Award recognizes an organization’s specific, tangible projects that show a direct impact on Sustainability. Candidate projects are evaluated based on their broad commitment to the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals; their scalability and repeatability; the degree to which their project inspires the specialty coffee industry; and by their measureable results as a project at the time of the application deadline. In 2013, 18 applications were reviewed by SCAA’s Sustainability Council Awards subcommittee, who narrowed the pool of candidates to six finalists. The full Sustainability Council reviewed the final six applications and voted for the Award Winner. Pueblo a Pueblo’s Organic School Garden Project was named the winner, and the 2nd and 3rd place candidate projects, Utz Certified, and The Café Feminino Foundation, all demonstrate excellence in the Award’s scoring criteria. These are some highlights from the projects:
The Pueblo a Pueblo project conducts year-round training for teachers, students, and families on the principles of organic farming. Over a five-year period, schools work with Pueblo a Pueblo on project implementation, from start-up to full implementation.
This project provides free meals for each student attending schools with an organic farm through the program. There were 1,239 total direct participants served.
Pueblo a Pueblo’s focus on access to food and education addresses child health, hunger, and nutrition over both the short and long terms. Additionally, the program provides a safety net for school children by providing a complementary meal each school day. The two-pronged approach alleviates short-term hunger in children while reducing longer-term food insecurity and malnutrition through comprehensive education and training.
- Rosemary Trent, Executive Director at Pueblo a Pueblo
Learn more about this project: www.puebloapueblo.org
Utz Certified - Energy from Water
This project studied and implemented “bio-digesters”, which re-purpose what was previously considered organic waste during coffee’s washing phase into valuable biofuel that provides energy for farmers and communities.
The technology can be adapted and implemented in many types of producing areas, involves the innovative use of available materials, and emphasizes both recycling and repurposing efforts, in addition to a reduction in demand for traditional fuel sources (diesel and firewood). This project has directly impacted 966 individuals to date.
By producing biogas that is usable as an alternative energy from the wet method process for extraction of coffee beans from coffee cherries, this idea introduced a new method and a new device (the bio-digester, while not newly invented, is new to coffee waste conversion.) Simply put – the goal of the Energy From Water project is to be the standard method of operation for coffee farmers.
- Vera Espindola Rafael, Field Officer Latin America at UTZ Certified
Learn more about this project: www.utzcertified.org
This project emphasizes education for local communities to better understand sustainable agriculture, including its impact on year-round access to nutritious sources of vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
By working with women in local communities to reintroduce Peru’s quinoa grain crops, create guinea pig breeding programs, and to educate communities on food storage and conservation projects, this project has been very successful.
This project began with women in ten Peruvian Villages in 2009. In 2012, Cafe Feminino Foundation worked with 25 communities, and has directly impacted 2,520 individuals to date.
- Connie Kolosvary, Program Director at Cafe Femenino
Learn more about this project: www.coffeecan.org