Coffee origin - Lush

Our Mission

We're on a mission to deliver a more sustainable and transparent cup. We believe coffee can be better. We've built our supply chain from the ground up considering our impacts on people and planet.

We support the priorities of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and share the view that businesses have a role to play in implementing solutions to our world's most pressing crises. Many of these global crises intersect with the global coffee industry and supply chains. We uphold strict responsible buying principles. Scroll to read more about what responsible buying means to us. We update this page regularly.

Some of our impacts in 2021

Buhorwa community

We name our coffees after the farmers or co-ops that produce them

Smallholder farmers produce most of our world's coffee supply, yet they remain the most marginalized geographically and economically of all actors in the industry. 100% of our coffee purchases support the businesses of small-scale farmers or family-owned farms.

pricing

Committed to a higher price

One of the most important indicators of sustainable coffee is the price paid to farmer. Unfortunately, according to numerous studies, prices paid for green specialty coffees still today often do not cover the full cost of production. In 2021, we paid an average of $1.23 USD per LB higher than the Fair Trade FOB price. A farmer in our typical supply chains will see 80% of this price.

April _ RAPH _ Seb fournier

Reducing Our Environmental Impact

Coffee is a high intensity carbon impact food. Most GHG emissions and landfill waste occur in the final phases of coffee's lifecycle (roasting, distributing, retailing, brewing and consuming). We are committed to delivering a lower carbon impact cup. Today some commitments towards this include using 100% biodegradable packaging for our coffee bags, composting in 2 on 4 of our cafés, incentivising the use of reusable cups in our cafés by offering $0.25c rebate on drinks, delivering our e-commerce orders when possible by bicycle courrier or electric truck, and roasting our coffee with an Afterburner that reduces harmful emissions by 95%.

We partner with these change-making organizations

Sustainability

+ Where does your coffee come from?

From many places and people!

We buy the vast majority of our coffee from small-scale farmers and co-operatives. Research supports that supporting cooperatives has more widespread positive impact throughout the community than is common when purchasing from individual businesses, such as independently owned estates or larger farms. 

From there, we work primarily with trusted intermediaries called importers, who work to move our coffee from the country of origin to our warehouse and roasting facility in Montreal. In 2019 and 2020, we worked with the following importers for at least two coffees:

  • Crop to Cup

  • Atlas

  • The Coffee Quest

  • Interamerican

  • Red Fox Coffee Merchants

  • Semilla Coffee

LEARN MORE

+ Is your packaging compostable/biodegradable?

Yes! Our bags are 100% biodegradable and decompose in a backyard compost, commercial compost facility, or at the landfill (including the one-way degassing valve which promotes freshness and prevents oxidation.) Simply throw them into your compost or garbage when you are done (do not recycle). For more information about this packaging, check out our packaging supplier TekPak Solutions.  READ MORE

+ Is your coffee organic?

In short, no, because we do not believe Organic Certification to be the highest impact way to improve farm-level and coffees carbon footprint (to read the nitty gritty that forms this opinion, scroll down below). We consider the environmental impact of coffee production and our entire supply chain, and stand committed to reduction of our businesses carbon footprint in the following ways:

- We donate $0.01c (USD) per pound of coffee to World Coffee Research whose mission is to create a toolbox of coffee varieties, genetic resources and accompanying technologies and to disseminate them strategically and collaboratively in producing countries to alleviate constraints to the supply chain of high quality coffee. In 2021 this contribution was $721 USD - We invest in biodegradable packaging for our coffee bags, in 2021 that was 23,443 coffee bags redirected from long term landfill - We compost at 2 on 4 of our cafe locations - 40% of our e-commerce deliveries in 2021 were effected by carbon neutral shipping methods (bike courrier, picked up in store or our zero-net ground ship partners Boxknight) Nitty Gritty: To earn organic certification, coffee farmers must use an agriculture system that produces food-supporting biodiversity and enhances soil health. They can only use approved substances and organic farming methods. Many of the coffees that we buy adhere to all the principles of organic farming, but the farmer or cooperative simply has not paid to have the organization certified, or has failed to meet the criteria due to small matters that would not otherwise contradict the principles behind the certification. Achieving certification is a costly and long-term process that many farmers struggling in cyclical poverty cannot access. For this reason, we support and encourage smallholder farmers who practice ecologically sustainable farming practices, whether or not they are third-party certified, on their pathway to obtaining organic certification, or  already certified.

+ Is your coffee fair trade?

First of all, what is Fair Trade? Fair Trade prices were established to certify a buyer paying a price for coffee that surpasses a known cost of production for the farmer. It is a floor, not a ceiling. This said, the price to produce a pound of high quality specialty coffee has inflated since Fair Trade was established and though the model works well to ensure a pathway towards financial self-sufficiency for so many producers, we do not believe the floor price is a sustainable one for a producer based on research today. Across many reputable studies the known cost to produce 1 lb of coffee for the archetypical small scale farmer ranges from $1.30 USD to $1.50 USD (where Fair Trade minimum falls at $1.40 USD, and this is the price the exporter earns, not necessarily always the farmer (who might see 60-80% of that). Caravella importers white paper Fair Trade and Cornell University paper Bellweather white paper This said, we do purchase from Fair Trade certified Co-Ops, but we always pay a differential above the floor Fair Trade price. Of our coffees purchased in 2021, 13% were certified Fair Trade Certified, but 100% paid above Fair Trade FOB price by a full $1.23 USD per LB. Additionally, 27% of our coffees in this period contributed to improvements to Health Care or Food Security, 38% supported women-driven businesses and 40% of them supported youth development and education.

Our vision of responsible sourcing includes certifications, but is not limited to coffees that have them. Why? Because certified coffees can contribute to the development of  a sustainable industry, but they are not the only, and not always the easiest or price accessible pathway for a farmer or farmer group to adopt. Furthermore, models like Fair Trade floor prices have since been challenged by buyers like Dispatch for failing to increase at the pace of farmer's costs of production.

+ Is your coffee direct trade?

In short, no, and we do not  associate this phrase with a high(er) impact way of purchasing coffee than how we currently do. We will try to unpack this further here:

“Direct Trade” is a model that favours the elimination of intermediaries between producers and roasters. It is important to highlight that “eliminating intermediaries” does NOT necessarily means more money goes to the farmers than when coffee is traded through intermediaries like importers:

“Direct Trade” has been commonly defined in our industry as an approach to purchasing coffee from the farmer to the roaster. This may be possible in certain producing countries, and with certain farm archetypes where farmers have the foundational structures in place to export their own coffee and access markets abroad. However, there are many millions of farmers who rely on cooperatives, collection centres, mills and exporters to move to the roasting phase of the distribution chain. This is the prevalent  structure in most of the producing countries where our coffees come from..

Decreasing intermediaries does not inherently lead to increasing income for farmers 

In some form, all coffee is traded through intermediaries. Not only is there a wide variety  of “farm archetypes”, but there are also a myriad of intermediary structures between farmers and roasters. All coffee must move through four primary steps before final consumption, and in each of these stages, there can be multiple local actors or agents required to move coffee from one step to the next: from cultivation (in producing country), to  processing into green coffee (in producing country), to  roasting (generally in consuming country), and, finally, to d) packaging/retailing (generally in consuming country).

We choose to purchase most of our coffee from smallholder farmers (holding less than 10 hectares of land) because research supports  that this is where we can have the greatest impact, both economically and socially. Smallholder farmers tend to be the  most vulnerable coffee producers, and those with the  least market access  in the traditional coffee supply chain. They are also plentiful - over 25 million of them produce 80% of our world’s coffee. 

In order to access smallholder farmers, informal producers associations, and cooperatives, we need to work with intermediaries. Importers, the intermediaries that we most frequently communicate with, are carefully selected business partners. We require that they  share key aspects of our vision toward increasing farmers’ economic agency, and they often have long standing relationships with cooperatives  and smallholder farmers. All of our importers have active, on-the-ground presence in the producing countries they represent, allowing them to  provide pricing and impact traceability to buyers like us, and to better understand the personalized needs of each farming community. 

The positive impacts of "Direct trade” are only as effective as the roaster who is buying the coffee. Traditionally, roasters hold the largest margins of any intermediary in the coffee supply chain. If direct trade is able to transmit more of the roaster’s costs directly to the farmer, thereby increasing the farmer income, this is good, in principle, but direct trade can just as easily enable roasters to simply keep more of the total margin without meaningfully increasing the farmer income, and furthermore without  supporting  the operations of value-driven importers like those we choose to work with.

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