Matthew Algie has got much praise in the coffee community for being a supplier of ‘ethical’ coffee beans. The company has not one, but THREE certifications to its name; "we know that there's a big, undeniable connection between our coffee beans, the prosperity of people and the welfare of the planet which is why sustainability is, and always has been, a core principle of how we do business. Today, we reflect this in our vision for 'sustainable, shared, success' for us and our stakeholders," says Amy Oroko, Sustainability manager of Matthew Algie.

We were curious to know why Matthew Algie  places so much emphasis on sustainability.

Q: You have a triple-certified coffee on offer, tell us how proud you are about that and how do you make sure that you comply with the certifications?

We are immensely proud to be able to offer our customers triple (Fairtrade, organic and Rainforest Alliance) certified coffee because those labels give credit where it’s due - back to the farmers who have taken great care to change the way they farm, so that it is more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. We were the first roaster in the UK to launch a triple certified espresso back in 2004 and it’s still a relatively unique offering in the UK marketplace.

Developing this specialised supply chain has been a collaborative effort, involving working with some key coffee cooperatives in our existing supplier network to assist with the transition to triple certification. Our ongoing support includes paying a fair price, rewarding farmers for going the extra mile, and doing what we can to increase the market for certified coffee through educating our customers about the meaning and impact behind the labels.

Q: Why do you think students should be interested in organic coffee and sustainable sourcing?

Coffee is popular among students! From our travels to origin, we know that the long term viability of the coffee industry is under threat due to diverse challenges such as the variable weather patterns brought about by climate change or the urban migration of the next generation of coffee farmers.

Certifications, such as Fairtrade, organic and Rainforest Alliance can help address these very real supply risks. Organic certification for example, means that the soils on coffee farms remain healthy, and not spoilt by intensive, chemical-fuelled farming practices. So by looking out for certifications when students are seeking out their caffeine fix, they’re making an important choice to support coffee farmers and the continuation of the industry in the long term.

Q: What are you doing to minimise the carbon footprint associated with transporting coffee from your suppliers to the UK?

We source coffee from countries spread throughout the tropics. All of the coffee beans travel to the UK by boat which is the most efficient means of transport. However, it’s important to consider the environmental impact of our finished products right the way from bean to cup, and taking this approach means we can further improve opportunities including making our roasting process as efficient as possible, working with coffee suppliers to mitigate their environmental impact or improving the efficiency of our corporate transport and travel.

Q: What is your long-term strategy in favour of sustainability?

Our sustainability strategy has been developed around four core pillars:
1. sustainable sourcing of our products,
2. reducing the environmental impact of our operations,
3. investing in our employees,
4. engaging with our community.

These were areas that we’d been actively working in before, but we’re excited to see the fruits of this conscientious effort to formalise our plans, activities and goals over the next five years. Within coffee sourcing specifically, we’re hoping to continue to harness the benefits of a dual approach – using certifications and strong, direct relationships with suppliers to make our coffee products even more sustainable. 

A practical example of this is a project that we have in the pipeline with a long-term supplier in Bolivia. Through the programme, we will be supporting farmers to change their farming practices and sustainably increase their yields, whilst also assisting them to add Rainforest Alliance certification to their pre-existing Fairtrade and organic certification.

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