First Candle for our New Coffee Sustainability Strategy

February 20, 2024

A year has passed since we launched our Coffee Platform’s five-year (2023 to 2027) sustainability strategy, setting ambitious goals in line with global and coffee-specific commitments.

Building on our Coffee teams’ ongoing efforts and work to support and empower coffee communities, this strategy was designed around four interconnected pillars: Responsible sourcing; Farmer support via the Stronger Coffee Initiative; Sustainable operations; and Partnerships. Together, these pillars seek to set LDC firmly on the path to sustainable coffee supply chains.

Marking this first anniversary, Olivier Laboulle, our Global Head of Sustainability for Coffee, reflects on progress over the past twelve months and outlines his vision for the journey ahead.   

This strategy is a new chapter for the Platform – how has the inaugural phase unfolded?

Since launching the new strategy, I feel that everything that has happened has endorsed our vision.  

Indeed, I must say that the response we’ve seen is overwhelmingly positive and encouraging, so far. This enthusiasm is particularly evident among roasters who have made commitments to addressing aspects of their business that extend beyond their immediate scope, such as farm-level carbon emissions and support for smallholders. So they are very keen to see their suppliers taking responsibility and drawing up  their own ambitious plans.

Agronomist training near Motozintla, Chiapas, Mexico.
Agronomist training near Motozintla, Chiapas, Mexico.

Reflecting on the journey to implement the strategy, have you faced challenges thus far? And what did you learn from them?

Certainly, and what first springs to mind is the entry into force of the new European deforestation regulation (EUDR), which has been both an opportunity and a challenge. While it has undoubtedly brought attention to sustainability and deforestation matters in particular, it has also required us to invest additional resources and capacity to deal with the complexity of the requirements.

Additionally, the complexities inherent in carbon accounting and the delay in the publication of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Land Sector and Removals Guidance, have required us to remain flexible in our approach, in order to accommodate potentially different outcomes – for example, when it comes to the possibility of generating carbon reductions and offering traceability to supply-shed level, and not necessarily at farm level.

This experience highlights the critical need for clear frameworks and level playing fields, essential for companies to gain long-term security and visibility – a necessary condition to bolster investments in sustainable practices.

As you assess the progress to date, what specific achievements and milestones stand out?

2023 started out with an important milestone, when LDC’s Responsible Sourcing Program Advanced was recognized by the Global Coffee Platform (GCP) as equivalent to the GCP Coffee Sustainability Reference Code, 2nd party assurance.

Later in the year, the entry into force of the EUDR confirmed the strategic direction that LDC has taken, especially regarding the responsible sourcing pillar of our strategy, positioning LDC very well to respond to the new regulatory requirements. In fact, in the first half of the year, LDC had already executed its first EUDR-aligned coffee shipments, and we continue to refine and develop our offering to meet the continually evolving requirements of the European Commission.

LDC also completed a large-scale, farm-level carbon baselining exercise in 2023, conducted in line with GHG Protocol requirements and supported by LDC’s technical partner South Pole. The targeted groups in eight origins (Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Uganda, India, Vietnam, Indonesia) represent approximately 18,000 farmers and 150,000 MT of green coffee. This is the first step required to start reducing emissions at scale in the context of our Stronger Coffee Initiative objectives.

Finally, in November, LDC and its consortium partners Solidaridad, Lavazza Foundation and Merrild Kaffee received a 2 million Euro grant from the Danish Government to implement a project that aims to benefit 4,500 farmers in Uganda and create an industry-first ‘pay-for-impact’ model for carbon. I am proud of the innovative approach we are taking in pursuit of our goals.

Nairobi Kenya Coffee Farms
Coffee quality checking in Nairobi, Kenya

Going back to the EUDR, how does this new regulation affect day-to-day operations and projects? What is your perspective on the new regulatory framework?

Change is often greeted with resistance, all the more so for a change as profound as the EUDR. But at LDC, we see it as a significant step to make the sector more sustainable, especially in relation to decarbonization.

With our zero deforestation and conversion commitment as well as our new coffee sustainability strategy, which provides for the rapid expansion of traceable supply chains through our Responsible Sourcing Program, we are well prepared.

For us, the main challenge has consisted in correctly operationalizing some of the regulatory provisions, where the text leaves room for interpretation. Thanks to our expert teams and active involvement in pre-competitive sector organizations, we have navigated the complexities to quickly offer EUDR-aligned coffee to roasters who wanted to test our solutions in readiness for the EUDR’s application.

Looking ahead, what plans, initiatives or projects do you have in store for 2024 and beyond? And do you approach the future with confidence and optimism, or with concerns?

In 2024, our main objectives are two-fold:

  • Ensure a smooth transition for our European-based roasters, by delivering required quantities and qualities of EUDR-aligned coffee.
  • Generate the first farm-level verified scope 3 carbon reductions, and reward farmers for their work by generating a premium for these.

I am cautiously optimistic for the future, as I see unprecedented momentum in the agricultural sector, fueled by European legislations, voluntary commitments from major coffee roasters, increased investor funding for social and environmental impact, and the emergence of innovative sustainability solutions. This unique convergence has the potential to drive lasting positive change.

LDC’s Coffee teams are working very hard to play an active role in this context, striving to ensure that each cup of coffee contributes to the improvement of both lives and the planet. We are more motivated than ever!

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