farm

Coffee is in crisis. Here's what we're doing.

Over 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day. Coffee is the world's sixth largest carbon impact food and millions of coffee farmers earn less than their cost of production on a pound of coffee. From day one, we've been committed to driving solutions across our business operations, and to raising awareness about the people, places and impacts of coffee consumption. This doesn’t mean we are perfect at doing this - but we're deeply committed to the goal, and measuring our progress along the way. We update this page regularly.

Where Our Coffee Comes From

Buhorwa community

Transparency And Relationships

Are core values at the heart of our organization, and emblematic of our approach to responsible sourcing. Discover the story, people and places behind each of our coffees on each coffee's single coffee product page. Read more about the importance of purchasing relationships in our Blog post here.

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Reducing Price Volatility For Farmers

According to a study conducted by Fair Trade USA and Cornell University, “The Cost of Financially Sustainable Coffee Production in Latin America”, cost of production for a ~1.6 - 5.3 hectare farm ranged from $0.88 USD to $1.75 USD per pound, which means that coffee producers can still earn less than their operating costs, even in a Fair Trade certified supply chain.  Fair Trade guarantees that a cooperative is paid at least $1.40 USD per pound for their coffee. This number is only relative to what the average farmer in a given co-op will earn above their fixed and variable farming costs. Our average FOB* price to date, for coffees where this data was possible to collect, is $2.62/LB USD. The past five year average commercial price for a pound of coffee is $1.19/LB USD.

*FOB means "Free on Board", and refers to the final "seller" of coffee before our coffee leaves the export country. Often times the FOB income is earned by an exporter, a producer, or a producer group/co-op (We see all types of structures across our several supply chains). It is important to note price is only one indicator of equitable economics between supply chain actors. An FOB price does not = the price paid to farmer. This is what our industry refers to as "Farmgate" price. We are conducting ongoing research and pricing discovery in able to better report on price transmission for every LB of coffee that we source and sell. Stay tuned.
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Reducing Our Environmental Impact

The activities required to produce and commercialize coffee create carbon emissions of a very high intensity. Most of these negative impacts occur in the final phases of coffee's lifecycle (roasting, distributing, retailing, consuming). We have an enormous opportunity to improve the efficiency of our operations being a roaster/retailer, and here are some initiatives we've committed to across our supply chain:

Sourcing, cultivation, processing: > 30% of our past 32 coffees came from Organic certified co-ops > For the past 40 coffees contracted, 73% have donated proceeds ($0.02 cents/LB) 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. Roasting packaging, shipping and distribution: > Roasting our coffee with an afterburner. Coffee roasters emit various pollutants including methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Since we established our roasting facility we've seen great improvements to roasting technology, and look forward to implementing more energy efficient equipment into our roastery when we inevitably expand our operations. > Donating our experimental and waste roasted coffee on a recurring basis to these community organizations: Moisson Montreal, Native Women's Shelter or Mile End Mission. > Choosing biodegradable packaging material for our retail coffee bags, see our manufacturing partners here. > Packaging our café coffee for service in reusable buckets instead of disposable 5LB bags > We have two zero emission shipment options in Montreal for our online orders - Bike courier delivery with local courrier partners Chasseurs Courrier, and Pick-Up in Store Retail operations: > Composting coffee grinds and food waste at 2/3 of our Montreal café locations to reduce

landfill contributions > Incentivizing our customers to bring reusable mugs

by offering a $0.25 c discount > Working with local food suppliers for our pastry and dairy in order to maintain a shorter supply lifecycle

Responsibility and Transparency FAQ

Dispatch is a social enterprise. In our company, impact management is an ongoing practice of measurement and improvement, reducing the negative and increasing the positive. 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.

When answering questions about impact, we believe it is important to define terminology, as "responsibility", “ethics” and “sustainability” can be interpreted in many ways. This enables us to build consensus as a team, and those sharing data with us across our supply chain, as well as with you, our customers. 

We consider impact across many spheres in our supply chain, from coffee purchasing, to our employer policies and company culture, all the way to packaging and distribution. 

We are working to make our organizational impacts more transparent and measurable in 2021. For now you can visit our website page that outlines our responsible purchasing practice and ways in which we work to reduce our environmental footprint.

+ 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.

+ Where does your coffee come from?

From many places and people! *All data is taken from a study of 47 coffees served or contracted from late 2018 through the present. You can e-mail us at info@dispatchcoffee.ca for more information on this study. 

Among the 47 coffees with comparable datasets accounted for in this study, 77% of our were produced by smallholder farmers (farmers holding 5 or fewer hectares of land)). We made these purchases  via regional communities of farmers, cooperatives, and informal producer associations, as market and export accessibility is rare for a single smallholder farmer. 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. 

The majority of the other coffees considered in this study come from family farms or estates smaller than 100 hectares, which would still be considered “small” compared to commercial agri-businesses. “  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

  • Sucafina

  • Interamerican

  • Red Fox Coffee Merchants

  • Nordic Approach

+ 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 ON OUR BLOG POST HERE

Is your coffee organic?

Of the past 40 coffees we have purchased or contracted as of December 2020, 30% were certified Organic.

73% of them donated proceeds on every KG 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, 100% of our coffees will incorporate a donation to WCR.

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?

Our vision of responsible sourcing includes, but is not limited to certifications. Approximately  15% of the past 40 coffees we have purchased or contracted as of December 2020 in 2019-2020 were certified Fair Trade Certified.

Our vision of responsible sourcing includes certifications, but is not limited to coffees that have them.  Certified coffees can contribute to the development of  a sustainable industry, but they are not the only solution. Some certified coffees focus on ensuring environmentally friendly farming, while others address the social wellbeing of farmers and farming communities, or guarantee a minimum price paid to producers. 

Fair trade coffees focus on the latter, as well as connecting farmers to wider markets for their coffees, as well as training and development programs that support farmers’ agency and profitability. Fair trade certification evolved as a way to pay farmers a guaranteed minimum price for a pound of coffee at a premium above the commodities price. Traditionally, commodities pricing is extremely volatile and low (below the costs of production for most smallholder farmers). Though an incredible initiative and organization, fair trade minimum pricing cannot reduce all threats to our industry’s  sustainability or the wellbeing of farmers. This is why we do not limit our responsible sourcing decisions to just one certification. Fair Trade guarantees that a cooperative is paid at least $1.40 USD per pound for their coffee. This number is only relative to what the average farmer in a given co-op will earn above their fixed and variable farming costs. Our  average FOB* price to date, for coffees where this data was possible to collect, is $2.62/LB USD. The past five year average commercial price for a pound of coffee is $1.19/LB USD.According to a study conducted by Fair Trade USA and Cornell University, “The Cost of Financially Sustainable Coffee Production in Latin America”, cost of production for a ~1.6 - 5.3 hectare farm ranged from $0.88 USD to $1.75 USD per pound, which means that coffee producers can still earn less than their operating costs, even in a Fair Trade certified supply chain.

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