The food giant has pledged to invest over 700 million of Swiss francs (equivalent to $787 million) over the next decade on a program that includes responsibly sourcing all Nescafé's coffee. That practically means tracing supplies back to the singular groups of farmers by 2025. The program includes an objective to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 for Nestlé. The sum pledged is more than double of what the company has spent in the past 10 years.
The efforts will be focused on three chief priorities: improving farmers’ income, cutting the carbon emissions, and implementing recyclable or reusable packaging, said Philipp Navratil, head of the beverages strategic business unit at Nestlé. The exact amount pledged is still being discussed. Later this year we can expect a "sustainable roadmap", said the company.
Not just Nescafé but Nespresso is moving towards being more sustainable
This is not the first step the Swiss giant of coffee has taken recently in increasing their friendliness towards the environment and the workers of the sector. Back in September the child company that specializes in single-serve coffee pods, Nespresso, announced on their LinkedIn's profile with a video that they had set the objective to become carbon neutral by 2022. Also, despite the COVID pandemic, the company hasn't lowered their objectives.
In the case of Nespresso, the aim is more focused on their environmental impact. Carbon neutral means that every energy, water included, necessary to produce the coffee and the packaging that it involves (the aluminium and plastic for the pods, the cardboard for the package plus the shipping of it all), will be either taken from renewable sources or that the company will plant and preserve enough trees to offset the pollution generated by the production of their coffee. The last part will be done in collaboration with their partner, Pur Project.
Nespresso has had for quite some time already a program of "Reviving Origins", in which under an investment of 10 million Swiss francs ($10,9 million) various coffee-producing countries are helped to revive rural areas that have been affected by war conflicts, climate change, environmental disasters and similar, to improve their production and being marketable again.
Along with their recent pledge, it shows the effort the company has made in "cleaning up" their image and responding to the critics of the single-serve coffee systems that have rained on them over the last years.
Further steps in being environmentally friendly
Currently Nescafé has about 75% of all its coffee production, for a volume of about 649,000 metric tons, "responsibly sourced". This means that circa 216,000 metric tons of coffee, something along the lines of 216 million kilograms of beans, is not currently responsibly sourced. Most of the coffee of both Nescafé and Nespresso has been Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certified for some years now. Which further proves how the company has given in to the pressure from the coffee community and its consumers to pay way more attention to the consequences of the production, processing, and distribution that their products have on the environment.
The "third wave of coffee" culture has effected this lasting change in the conscience of many coffee drinkers, that aren't looking just to drink the "best" coffee possible, whatever that may mean, but want to know how it was produced, where it comes from, and how much of a negative impact it will have on the environment. Last but not least, a renewed attention to the rights and conditions of coffee farmers, along with the entire supply chain that is located in the producing, poorer countries, is an important aspect that consumers are increasingly looking to know before buying their loved coffee.
As an example of another large company, Starbucks took steps in being more ethical by reaching nearly 100% of their coffee being "ethically sourced" already back in 2015. Recently Nestlé and Starbucks have partnered in offering the Seattle giant's coffee in the Nespresso Original and Vertuo line pods system, for a deal that accrued $7,15 billion to Starbucks. Today it is possible to buy both Nespresso's own coffee and Starbucks' in the very same pods that once were only under the control of Nestlé. Whether this will open the same path for other companies is debatable, and honestly I'm doubtful that Nestlé will be willing to allow others to benefit from their market share and technology in using their same pods, especially for the as of today proprietary Vertuo coffee capsules. Starbucks was probably more of an exception to break into the US market, where Nespresso has historically been weak.
Sustainability and coffee pods aren't mutually exclusive
From these steps taken from two of the biggest player in the sector, we can see how what was once considered the worst form of brewing coffee for the environment: with over 9,8 billion of pods sold annually, the large part of them either non-recyclable or not recycled, the quantity of waste produced is staggering. Whether you like the taste of either the Nespresso, or Keurig or Illy, or Lavazza or other, proprietary or not, pods systems, the effect they have on the quantity of material produced to package, ship and consume your daily coffee cup(s) is an issue that the industry hasn't tackled for quite some time.
At the very least some steps like these from Nestlé for their Nescafé and Nespresso lines go toward assuaging the damage caused by the coffee production. Recycling programs have been implemented for some years now, to ensure that the used pods aren't being simply thrown away (most of these pods are made of 100% recyclable aluminium, and some are 100% compostable or biodegradable). The coffee industry has since grown to the point that being sustainable is a must, not just a marketing trend. The worldwide consumption of the black beverage is increasing year after year, and along with the threat of climate change on the actual life of the coffee plant, make programs to be more sustainable, reducing emissions and recycling the coffee waste, necessary.
Hopefully, soon we will stop considering brewing coffee from a pod mutually exclusive with being sustainable.