Environmental concerns such as soil care and deforestation, water use and conservation, energy, wildlife preservation and agrochemical use falls under the Planet division.
And Product emphasizes both “cup quality” — essentially taste — and the economics of coffee-growing to make sure that farmers are being paid fairly.
While there are various other socially responsible designations for coffee growers, C.A.F.E. Practices is a comprehensive program that not only sets minimum expectations of its suppliers but promotes continuous improvement through best practices in sustainable coffee production. The program also enables Starbucks to gain insight into the challenges faced by farmers in different coffee-producing regions. That enables Starbucks to customize its support for farmers, whether that means financial assistance from the Global Farmer Fund through a loan, providing healthy coffee trees or technical support through a Farmer Support Center. In turn, that fine-tuning results in enhanced coffee yields. “We expect supply chains to continue to improve over time, and we offer the support and tools for them to do so,” said Goodejohn.
Farmer Support Centers (FSC) are one of the key ways that Starbucks encourages continuous improvement and production of high-quality coffee, even for those farmers who are not yet C.A.F.E. Practices-verified.
That was the experience of Aime Gahizi, who co-owns Gitesi Farm in the western Karongi district of Rwanda with his father. Gahizi was the first farmer to knock on the door of Starbucks Farmer Support Center in Rwanda when it opened in 2009. His father had taken over the farm after his extended family was killed during the 1994 genocide against the minority Tutsi.
Gahizi’s aunt was the only survivor. Before her death several years after the genocide, she beseeched Alex Gahizi, Aime’s father, to stay put. “This is home,” she said of their ancestral land, with its verdant rolling hills and terraced slopes.
But neither Gahizi, 37, nor his father knew much about growing coffee. They had purchased a small washing station to process their coffee cherries, which contain the coffee beans, but they didn’t know how to properly operate the machinery. They ended up breaking the inner beans instead of just removing the parchment, or outer skin.
“We worked with him to teach him farm best practices and increase productivity and quality control,” said Julianne Kayonga, regional manager of the FSC in Rwanda. “We showed him that quality begins on the farm.”
For eight years, the specialists at the FSC worked with Gahizi as he pursued C.A.F.E. Practices status, which he recently attained. He learned how to protect his 15,000 coffee trees from disease and how to properly handle wastewater from coffee production, as well as how to deploy worms that Starbucks provided to make fertilizer using the byproducts from processing the coffee instead of relying on chemicals. “We have learned how to treat our coffee better,” said Gahizi. “Now we are competitive in the market.”
That’s the goal, said Goodejohn. “We’re willing to invest the time to support farmers who want to learn and become better at growing coffee,” she said. “At Starbucks, it’s one of our core missions and values to support producers growing coffee in the most sustainable way. As a business, we are growing. We continue to look for the highest quality coffee grown in the most sustainable way. We can’t assume it’s going to be there tomorrow, so we make the investment today.”