Case Study: How Brazil’s Largest Coffee Cooperative Developed a World-Class Sustainability Program
Cooxupé, the world’s largest coffee cooperative, with over 18,000 members — more than 97% of whom are small producers who make their living from family farming — is Brazil’s largest exporter of coffee in the global market, with 6.8 million bags of coffee beans produced in 2022 alone. As global markets continue to push for more sustainable farming practices including worker safety, equity, and diversity, Cooxupé has risen to the challenge of becoming a leader in incorporating sustainable principles and responsible practices within its business, operations and facilities, and even in the decisions that relate to its stakeholders (cooperative members, employees, suppliers, customers and community). Cooxupé’s goal is to balance the economic, social, cultural and environmental aspects that are essential to ongoing success and growth within the coffee industry.
Over the last several years, the Cooxupé team noticed some challenges to overcome regarding the engagement of its producers in sustainability codes of conduct. The majority of cooperative members that are part of certification systems are large farmers that have more infrastructure to apply the required certification standard’s actions in the field. While small producers and family farms are responsible for the greatest part of Cooxupé’s production, they often have not had the infrastructure or support needed to pursue sustainability certifications.
As the number of cooperative members increases every year and the demand for sustainable coffee grows, Cooxupé saw a need to not only support producers who are already achieving sustainability certifications and higher yields, but also those who needed more support to increase yields to meet market demands and achieve additional certifications.
While some of Cooxupé’s growers have been participating in other sustainability programs, such as the Starbucks C.A.F.E. Practices program and Rainforest Alliance certification, Cooxupé knew that internally the company needed to develop a new program that could not only be benchmarked against these established standards so more farms could participate in them, but Cooxupé could also go above and beyond these programs to help educate, establish farm-based protocols, provide technical assistance, and offer financial support to implement sustainable change in a way that had never been done before. Cooxupé saw the solution for this problem as the creation of a program capable of increasing the producer’s engagement regarding sustainability with a proactive and positive approach, coupled with the necessary technical and financial support that develops a healthy and prosperous environment for the next generations.
" The cooperativism that we believe in is a sustainable model because we are not B2B, business-to-business, we are not B2C, business-to-consumers, we are P2P, people-to-people. We are a people organization that joined together to solve common problems for the families that farm coffee, and our Gerações program was set up to improve the lives of the coffee growers and the communities where they live.” ” – Alexandre Monteiro, ESG Manager, Cooxupé
The culmination of a more than two-year program development process was the launch of Cooxupé’s Gerações Protocol (Generations in English), a well-defined set of guidelines and levels of achievement focused on the resilience, longevity, and quality of production, all deeply linked to economically sustainable production, in harmony with the environment and with the producers, their families and their employees. The program, already being adopted by more than 400 producers, starts from the ground up, not from the top down, with more than 100 Cooxupé technical professionals meeting with the farmers in the field, explaining the program, its benefits, and the how sustainable practices will benefit the farms, the workers and the environment. SCS auditors serve as verifiers, who validate each farm’s adherence to Generations’ protocols and acceptance into the family of compliant farms.
Key Outcomes & Plans Going Forward
- Cooxupé created a robust, internal sustainability program to support their 18,000 farmers in their quest to becoming more sustainable and equitable.
- Developed a team of internal sustainability analysts who work directly with farmers on an ongoing basis to implement and maintain sustainability practices on their farms.
- Implemented a 3-step communications initiative to educate internal employees, producers and field workers, and cooperative partners about the Gerações program.
- Provides technical and financial assistance to producers to become a part of the Gerações program for the benefit of their farms, their workers, the surrounding community, and the environment.
- Anticipates steady adoption of Gerações in line with their 2028 corporate sustainability goals.
For more information about Carbon Neutral Certification please contact:
Jorge Ramírez Laugerud
Vice President, Responsible Sourcing Strategies