A Guide to Understanding Sustainability

In today’s world, there are several different sustainability certifications, especially in terms of coffee. A specific type of coffee can be classified under one or many categories, including, but not limited to Organic, Kosher, Fair Trade, Bird-Friendly, Shade Grown, and Rainforest Alliance. Due to the fact that there are several different certifications, trying to remember or distinguish them can become very confusing, so consider this to be a guide of labels and definitions in the world of coffee sustainability certifications!

Organic: Organic products are developed with an approach that views the farm as an integral part of the global ecosystem. Emphasis is placed on recycling, composting, soil health and biological activity with the goal of long-term protection of the farm environment. Synthetic chemicals are rigorously avoided. In accordance with the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, effective October 21, 2002, the US Department of Agricultural regulated which products can be labeled “organic,” “made with organic ingredients” or “100% organic.” Only products that meet the organic foods, production, processing and handling criteria are eligible to be labeled as USDA Certified. Stockton Graham & Co. is a certified organic handler per the USDA National Organic Program and we are inspected annually.

Kosher: There are many different kosher certification agencies whose principal objectives are to ensure the ingredients used in a product; the processing methods; and handling of the product meets strict Jewish dietary guidelines. Kosher certified products offer assurance to the consumer about the purity of the ingredients used to make it. Stockton Graham & Co., based upon an annual inspection and records review, maintains a kosher certification on our coffees through the Atlanta Kashruth Commission.

Shade Grown: A coffee that is shade grown is one considered to be grown in the canopy of taller, shade trees. These trees can be a variety of species and with a variety of sparseness and heights. Not only does coffee thrive in shaded areas, but the acidic soil that the coffee plant grows in also acts as a natural fertilizer for these trees which provide ideal habitats for several native birds, bats and insects.

Bird Friendly: Coffees produced in a shade canopy that offers habitats for native and migratory bird populations are considered Bird-Friendly™. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) has developed a set of strict criteria for evaluating shade coffee farms. An independent, third party inspector determines whether a farm meets these criteria or not. Only those farms that also meet organic certification standards are eligible to be certified as “Bird-Friendly”™ companies.

Fair Trade: In its simplest form, Fair Trade means that the producer of the coffee receives a price sufficient to cover their costs of production, and provides a reasonable return on their invested capital. The words “fair-trade” are used by several different organizations that may or may not be governed by FLO (the Fair Labeling Organization International) which provides guidance and audit trails to ensure the price paid to the producer is indeed fair.

Rainforest Alliance: The Rainforest Alliance (“TRA”) works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. The Rainforest Alliance works with people, whose livelihoods depend on the land, while helping them transform the way they grow food, harvest wood and host travelers. From large multinational corporations to small, community-based cooperatives, TRA involves businesses and consumers worldwide in efforts to bring responsibly produced goods and services to a global marketplace where the demand for sustainability is growing steadily.

Here at Stockton Graham & Co., we offer a selection of sustainable coffees in our NCompass line which contains coffees with one or more of the above certifications. With these coffees, your customers can feel good that with their purchase, they will help support a healthy environment and enhance the worldwide ecosystem. For more coffee information, please give us a call at 800-835-5943, and we’d be glad to assist you!

Matt Hogan
Stockton Graham & Co.