Over the past two weeks I have become an expert on the coffee industry in Costa Rica, and the environmental, social, and economically sustainable practices they use to efficiently run each company. Before we arrived in Costa Rica, I was somewhat aware of the commitment Costa Rica has to the environment. However, I did not understand just how much of an impact this commitment had on each individual company within the coffee industry. One particular company known as, Life Monteverde took this idea of sustainability to a whole new level. For example, when it comes to the farming of their crops, they choose to use natural fertilizers such as manure and pulp of coffee beans, they have a prototype of a biodigestor, which is essentially a methane chamber, in which methane is collected from the livestock and transported to the farms kitchen to be utilized as a form of fuel. Additionally, Life Monteverde is not blinded by revenue. For example, they could cut down many of the surrounding trees to create more of a fertile space for crops; however, they focus on reforestation efforts that will not only be beneficial to naturally keeping pests away from the crops, but also, they benefit the surrounding community. Many coffee farms such as, the Doka Estate, also choose to participate in fair trade agreements, carbon neutrality, and the government subsidized program, the Rainforest Alliance. Aside from environmental sustainability, coffee plantations focus on social and economic sustainability through providing housing, meals, and other amenities to their migrant coffee pickers to ensure that they return to work for future seasons. In situations of a family run company, such as, Life Monteverde, there is often times a board that makes important decisions for the company, and although most of the children choose not to pursue agriculture, there are many positions to fill that can often times fulfill their interests.
As for sustainability in coffee mills, I am not as knowledgeable. Sustainability does not stop after the farming (or supplier’s supplier) process of the supply chain. Sustainability occurs in the mills as companies attempt to alter their processes in order to reduce waste. For example, at the Doka Estate, no coffee bean is wasted. Pulp is used for fertilizer, the outer layer of the bean is used as fuel in the drying process, honey of the berry is used for coffee liquor, and every bean is separated into class based on its quality. Another method, in which, the milling process can be sustainable at many companies is through the use of hydropower versus electric power.
When it comes to roasting and exporting coffee products, there is technically not much environmental sustainability present; however, companies often times use the advertisement of these processes through tours and presentations as a tool to introduce sustainable practices such as, recycling. Additionally, companies like to make it very known through their packaging whether the coffee is fair trade certified, for example. Not only is this a helpful selling point for firms, but it also helps to educate consumers on how well their product was produced. Britt is a roasting company that really emphasizes environmental sustainability through their system of recycling unused coffee bags by paying local women to make them into purses and other styles of bags that will be sold in their retail locations. This promotes economic and social sustainability as well because the community is benefiting from employment opportunities.
Retail coffee stores such as the Doka Estate and Life Monteverde have very clearly presented ecotourism along with their products, this is commonly used as a method to promote economic and environmental sustainability as consumers become more invested in the story behind the product, and the plantations can now make profit off of two separate industries surrounding their product. A great example of social sustainability in retail stores may be Coopedota, because they offer barista school as a part of high school in local communities.
The last step of the supply chain the consumer’s consumer continues to incorporate sustainability as a major goal through most of these companies. Some customers search for products from companies that are labeled as complying with fair trade, as well as various sustainability programs and certifications. Some customers participate in recycling systems where they give back the packaging of the product for some discount or benefit. Additionally, customers who are not even aware of their participation in the sustainability processes may be Starbucks customers, who by purchasing the product are supporting the sustainable practices.
Overall, I have delved much deeper into the processes of each step of the supply chain, and although some practices are much more obvious and advertised than others, each member of the chain plays their part.