Sustainable coffee explained

Do you know where your coffee comes from? Many people don't think about it, but the coffee you drink every morning likely has a complex history. In this blog, we will explore the world of sustainable coffee.

Coffee production faces many challenges, from climate change to social inequalities. As a farm to cup business, we can help power positive change through our sourcing actions. This is about helping the long-term, sustainable production and supply of coffee. We believe the best way to do that is to ensure not only that nature thrives, but that coffee growing communities flourish as well.

In coffee producing countries, over 25 million families around the world depend on coffee farming for their livelihoods, and over 50 countries that produce and export coffee. Coffee can contribute to the social and economic development of the countries themselves, and it can make an important contribution to the environment as a productive forest.

Coffee beans roasted

What is sustainably sourced coffee?

Sustainability is an evolving concept. However, generally speaking, sustainably sourced coffee means green coffee which has been grown and processed under conditions that consider social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainability. This would include:

  • complying with ethical practices – such as labour and working conditions
  • helping conserve and protect the environment and natural resources where coffee is grown
  • supporting continuous improvement in farming practices to help farmer livelihoods

One key way to ensure coffee is sourced sustainably is by using selected schemes which align to a recognised sustainability framework, such as that of the Global Coffee Platform Schemes that also include oversight from an external body to manage assurance of the standards are sometimes referred to as ‘Certified’. 

Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance is an example of a third-party assured certification scheme. It is an international, non-profit organisation, working to build a powerful alliance to protect forests, improve the livelihoods of farmers and forest communities; promoting their human rights, and helping them to mitigate and adapt to the ongoing climate crisis.

Our core Ueshima range is 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified. The frog certification seal on our packs symbolises the Rainforest Alliance mission of people and nature thriving together. The seal means that our certified coffee is produced using methods that support the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic and environmental. Independent, third-party auditors who are critical to the integrity of the certification, evaluate coffee farmers against requirements in all three areas before awarding certification.


With Fairtrade certification, coffee producer organisations are guaranteed to receive at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price for their coffee, which aims to cover their costs of production and act as a safety net when market prices fall below a sustainable level. Through producer organisations, farmers also receive an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community improvements. Our newly launched Ueshima Decaf coffee is Fairtrade certified.

Ueshima Decaf Coffee Beans

Sustainability verification schemes

‘Verification’ is used to refer to schemes, often smaller in scale, that still align to recognised sustainability standards but don’t rely on an external body to manage assurance. Second-party assurance is often referred to as ‘verification’ and not ‘certification’.

Ueshima Speciality coffee beans are sourced from a group of small producers who are involved in the NKG Bloom (Neumann Kaffee Gruppe) verified initiative – which works to ensure the long-term viability of green coffee supplies by providing smallholder farmers with the opportunities and resources they need to run their farms at full potential and enter a pathway out of poverty.

Ueshima Speciality coffee beans

Traceable coffee

Coffee traceability is about transparency of the supply chain; however, the coffee supply chain is not a direct line from tree to cup. Not all coffee is traceable, but all certified coffee can be traced back to a certification holder. A simplified supply chain could involve a farmer producing the coffee, an intermediary purchasing the coffee, processor and exporter who prepares the coffee for transport, an importer who unloads coffee at ports and then the roaster who roasts and packs it - before it reaches the stores and websites where it can be purchased.

In the context of this blog, traceability can lead to ensuring ethical and sustainable practices are taking place by giving workers fair pay, as well as ensuring working conditions are safe and the environment is protected. However, it’s important to note that just because a product is traceable, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sustainable. Knowing where your coffee comes from is only part of ensuring you're making responsible purchasing decisions.

For tips to help you in your own pursuit of coffee perfection, visit our coffee blog.