Olam’s first sustainability programme to qualify for Infinity status is a circular coffee economy model that will deliver a triple positive impact in the coffee value chain; improving economic opportunity and environmental conservation from producers and communities in Peru, to consumers in the Netherlands.

Under the circularity principles, profits from the sale of products made from spent coffee grounds are re-invested into gender inclusive cultivation practices and environmental conservation to trigger longer-term land stewardship and improved livelihoods overall.

The multi-stakeholder project involving a major coffee roaster, Solidaridad, SERFOR and Cooperative Cuencas de Hullega, was launched in 2019 to scale up an existing collaboration which focussed on tackling deforestation and poor coffee productivity in Peru, following the 2012 leaf rust outbreak.

Delivering a triple-positive impact:

Improving economic opportunity for Peru’s coffee farmers

Olam will train 1,600 coffee growers, out of a much larger number of beneficiaries of this partnership, in the San Martin region on circular farming practices to improve farm productivity and implement agroforestry systems, wastewater management and other activities that will build their resilience to climate-change and increase their income from better bean quality and 20% higher yields.

A Circular Coffee Fund generated from the sale of coffee waste in the Netherlands, will provide conditional grants or loans to farmers to promote financial inclusion and incentivise conservation practices that benefit local communities and the environment.

Supporting thriving coffee communities

Through a partnership with SERFOR, coffee growers will be rewarded for agroforestry practices with official land titles from the government, through which they will gain access to the Circular Coffee Fund to invest in longer-term land stewardship and community infrastructure.

Gender equality is a cross-cutting approach incorporated across all field activities, from Good Agricultural Practices training to capacity development of the role of women in the household. It is also promoted by the eligibility requirements of the Circular Coffee Fund, which mean both husband and wife need to apply for the loan and demonstrate joint agreement on its use.

Closing the coffee loop with conservation

Coffee waste will be upcycled in the Netherlands by using the spent coffee grounds to make construction panels, that can be used for furniture items like coffee cabinets, which spares the need for timber.

Deforestation will be further reduced with the implementation of agroforestry systems where the farmers are motivated to grow coffee under the forest canopy, instead of clearing land. Circular coffee cultivation will also allow more efficient nutrient and water cycles – with 400,000m3 of water replenished annually from wastewater treatment - and the reduction of carbon emissions on coffee farms covering 12,800 ha.

Starting with 1,600 farmers to prove the circular coffee model, the project is designed to be scaled up to reach all 75,000 coffee farmers in San Martin and ultimately replicated at national level with engagement from the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture.

As these coffee farmers gain additional income from increased yields, so businesses and public sector bodies in the Netherlands will benefit from the sale of spent coffee grounds, with proceeds also feeding the Circular Coffee Fund to incentivise sustainable cultivation. Therefore, a transformative impact is delivered throughout the whole value chain by closing the loop between the participating coffee farmers and the end consumers enjoying their cup of coffee.