Caffé Nero triples sustainable farming training scheme

Coffee shop chain Caffé Nero has is tripling its efforts to promote sustainable practices to coffee farmers as a means to improve the "transparency and addressability" of its supply chain.

Speaking exclusively to edie ahead of the Responsible Retail conference in September (scroll down for details), Caffé Nero’s head of coffee Giacomo Celi revealed that the company would be working alongside the Rainforest Alliance to promote and improve economic, environmental and social standards for coffee farmers in South America.

Celi revealed that the retailer will be expanding its work with the Rainforest Alliance to “move beyond certification” and train-up selected farmers, having launched the farming community support initiative in Nicaragua last year.

“The aim is to guarantee the highest quality coffee and to mark our presence in the premium segment of coffee retailers,” Celi told edie. “By ensuring quality and managing risks, we can establish a position as a premium brand with a strong reputation.

“But to do so, we have to make sure we’re working effectively on the field, hand-in-hand with coffee farmers, to mitigate environmental, social and economic risks -we’re working on our unique approach to align these together in collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance.”

High-quality yields

Celi claimed that the Rainforest Alliance has proved a “fantastic partner”, enabling Caffé Nero to source coffee from farmers that would not only produce high-quality yields but also show the willingness to adopt sustainable practices.

Through this initiative, Caffé Nero has so far worked with suppliers to train Nicaraguan farmers to implement sustainable farming practices which is improving yields, maintaining a better quality, reducing water consumption and pollution and improving social practices for coffee farmers’ communities.

For Celi, ensuring that the company had access to high-quality yields meant “cutting the supply chain to its smallest possible structure” to create a transparent and direct project that sees Caffé Nero sending full-time specialists out to the farmers to train them and improve farming standards. 

“We wanted to explore a direct sourcing platform to find a pragmatic approach to sourcing where we find and select the farmers that we want to work with – and quality is the driver of this decision,” Celi said. “Then, we work to help them improve their sustainable practices in the field.”

“It’s not a case of ‘if a farmer isn’t certified then they are out of the supply chain’, but rather that if the farmer can produce the quality that we want, then we will make sure that we help them to raise standards across environmental, social and economic dimensions up to Rainforest Alliance standards.

“We work to mitigate the risks for our farmers and we collaborate with organisations and our supply chain to form stronger links. For Caffé Nero, quality has a double meaning. Not only do we look at the quality of the product we’re sourcing but also the economic associations that come with it. As a farmer, if you produce a lot of good quality coffee then your income will increase and you can get better prices for the coffee.” 

While Celi admitted that the complex nature of crop yields was yet to provide any tangible results from year one of the three-year project, the company’s willingness to expand the initiative highlights how Caffé Nero has been able to improve supply chain transparency during the process.

For Celi, transparency goes “hand-in-hand” with addressability in the sense that the more data and feedback a company can receive from suppliers, the greater knowledge it has to deal with any mitigating issues.

The aim of the project is to integrate supplier practices with the company’s strategy, and Celi hopes that creating a feedback loop and points of contact with the farmers will strengthen environmental practices without diminishing the quality of the product.

Coffee cup recycling

On top of driving sustainability in its coffee farming supply chain, Caffé Nero is also now focussing on the use of waste coffee grounds as a means to generate energy. The retailer is currently working with innovators Bio-Bean to convert coffee into energy in 91 stores in London, and Celi revealed the Caffé Nero is now looking to roll this out nationally.

The other major CSR issue Caffé Nero is now dealing with is that of coffee cup waste. With Hugh’s War on Waste recently singling out Britain’s biggest coffee shop chains – including Caffé Nero – for the lack of recyclability of paper coffee cups, the firm is now stepping up efforts to find a solution to the problem.

Celi revealed that Caffè Nero is currently taking part in the UK’s first high street recycling scheme for coffee cups. In partnership with the charity Hubbub, Manchester City Council and other retailers, the scheme is looking at how best to communicate to the consumer where their used paper cup should be put, in order to maximise the opportunity for it to be recycled. These cups will then be collected and sent on to a facility which can recycle them. 

“Caffè Nero are facing into the issues across the paper cup supply chain which prevent widespread recycling of paper cups,” he said. “We are in constant dialogue with cup manufacturers to understand options available which can increase the recyclability of the cups we use.”

Giacomo Celi at edie’s Responsible Retail Conference 

Caffé Nero’s master of coffee Giacomo Celi is one of the expert speakers at edie’s upcoming Responsible Retail Conference.

Taking place on 21 September in London, the edie Responsible Retail Conference equips retailers, government representatives, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders with the tools they need to achieve more efficient resource use and improve brand reputation in the process.

View the full agenda for this brand new conference here and register to attend here.

Matt Mace

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