Achieving Sustainable Development in the Coffee Sector

Coffee, the world’s favorite beverage, provides livelihoods for at least 60 million people across dozens of countries. Promoting the long-term health, wellbeing, and environmental sustainability of the much beloved coffee sector should be a clear priority.

Yet coffee is experiencing a sustainability crisis. A sustained decline in world coffee prices has squeezed coffee producers, and thrown a tremendous number of producers below the global extreme poverty line. While many consumers willingly pay high prices for coffee, coffee farmers receive a tiny fraction of the final retail price. Producers are price-takers in a global market that has turned against them. These sustained low prices hurt even more as coffee producers begin to bear the brunt of climate change.

CCSI and advisory board chair Professor Jeffrey Sachs were commissioned by the World Coffee Producers Forum to assess sustainability within the coffee sector, including producers’ economic sustainability. Our full report, Ensuring Economic Viability and Sustainability of Coffee Production, presents our research, including the results of our analytical and empirical modeling, and provides several recommendations. These recommendations include: developing country-specific National Coffee Sustainability Plans, establishing a Global Coffee Fund to finance sustainability investments, and exploring additional ways to increase producer profits.

Download the report (141 pages, including appendices)

Download the report in Spanish (145 pages, including appendices)

Download the summary (7 pages)

Watch the movie briefing (~2min)

New research project: Building off of the 2019 report, CCSI is conducting research on responsible coffee sourcing, with a particular focus on how the sourcing of coffee by roasters and retailers affects producer income and worker wages. Through this work, CCSI is examining the income drivers for producers in key coffee-producing countries, the role of sustainability certifications and standards, and the implications of various sourcing and sustainability strategies undertaken by companies. CCSI will also assess the sourcing strategies of specific companies, as well as other activities undertaken by those companies that may affect producer living income and worker living wages. This research was commissioned by a long-term investment manager, although our research results will be publicly available.

What can you do to help? See our recommendations below (download here), and sign the petition to support the International Coffee Organization’s #coffeepledge.


Interested in knowing more? CCSI hosted a webinar with Professor Jeffrey Sachs and some co-authors of the report on October 21, 2019. The recording is available here and below. Additional answers to questions asked but not answered during the webinar are available here.