Perhaps coffee is one of the proverbial canaries in the coal mine when it comes to climate change. No less than coffee giant Starbucks recently expressed concern about the global coffee supply being threatened by climate change. Jim Hanna, Starbucks’ sustainability director, told The Guardian, “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean.”
Reuters reported last year that Kenyan coffee growers have been affected by climate change. Both excessive droughts and unpredictable rainfall patterns have reduced coffee production. For example, in the 2007/2008 crop year, the Coffee Berry Disease, caused by intermittent rainfall, reduced Kenyan coffee production by 23 percent.
Coffee companies need to address climate change
Clearly, it is in a coffee company’s best interest to help coffee growers adapt to climate change. As Hanna said, companies simply can’t afford to “sit by and wait until the impacts of climate change are so severe that is impacting our supply chain.” Companies need to look ahead. Or as Hanna put it, “From a business perspective we really need to address this now, and to look five, 10, and 20 years down the road.”
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) is a company that seems to understand the importance of climate change adaptation. GMCR and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recently announced a partnership in coffee growing regions in Latin American and the Caribbean. Part of the partnership will include supporting climate change adaptation in certain areas where GMCR sources green coffee, or coffee beans in their natural state.
GMCR is also one of the six companies participating in the Partnership for Resilience and Environmental Preparedness (PREP), which is a one-year pilot program addressing the risks and opportunities climate change poses to both businesses and communities. Starbucks is the only other coffee company in PREP.
Support sustainable companies
If the mere thought of one day not being able to wake up to your morning cup of coffee sends you into a tizzy, there is something you can do. As consumers, we can choose to buy coffee from sustainable companies like GMCR. In addition to the company’s support of climate change adaptation, Fair Trade USA named GMCR the largest purchaser of fair trade coffee in the world.
Photo credit: Flickr user Anthony_p_c