Colombian coffee producers demonstrate benefits of sustainability standards

A new ILO report highlights how voluntary sustainability standards can have a positive impact on working conditions, including occupational safety and health (OSH).

Thesynergyonline Economics Bureau

GENEVA : Consumer preferences for coffee produced in socially, economically and environmentally sustainable conditions has helped promote occupational safety and health (OSH) measures in Colombia's coffee sector, the ILO said in a report, adding that this could be replicated in other global value chain.

Producers who participate in voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) tend to adopt good practices to a greater extent than conventional producers, according to the report: Food and agriculture global value chains: Drivers and constraints for occupational safety and health improvement Volume One and Volume Two . This includes the adoption of OSH practices.

The programmes are a powerful market force which help transmit awareness from the consumer to the industry and the producers themselves regarding the need to invest in improving conditions of work.

"This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army on the battlefield, and the battle takes place. Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensign to the wind. The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition, the shafts of wit start up like sharpshooters. Similes arise, the paper is covered with ink; for the struggle commences and is concluded with torrents of black water, just as a battle with powder." Honoré de Balzac

The report also notes a significant increase in the number of Colombian coffee growers participating in VSS programmes – such as UTZ Certified, Rainforest Alliance and Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality – which enable them to sell coffee at a premium.

Columbia is one of the leaders in production of coffee under sustainable standards, with an 18 per cent share of the segment of verified or certified volumes.

The report says the experience of the coffee sector in Colombia has reached a point where it could serve the development of other supply chains in the country at a time when the peace agreement between the Government and the FARC guerrilla provides a unique opportunity to improve conditions of work in the rural environment and combine it with a strategy for commercial competitiveness.

At the same time, Colombia's experience could also benefit coffee supply chains in other producer countries, the report says, adding that international buyers consulted had a positive perception of the implementation of OSH in Colombia in comparison with other countries.

It doesn't matter where you're from - or how you feel... There's always peace in a strong cup of coffee." " ― Gabriel Bá, Daytripper

The report is part of an ILO-EU project to improve the knowledge base on OSH in global supply chains, which account for an estimated 60 to 80 per cent of world trade.