Updated on April 17, 2019

The UTZ program adopts a balanced approach to sustainability that takes into account the three pillars of people, planet and profit. Today we talk to Henriette Walz, Global Lead Deforestation, about the environmental pillar through the lens of our coffee program. She explains in concrete terms why sourcing sustainable coffee is better for the environment.

Sustainable coffee helps farmers better manage wastewater

Washed process of coffee cherries in Vietnam

Washed process of coffee cherries in Vietnam

Approximately two thirds of coffee beans are processed through a technique called the wet process. This process removes the coffee bean from the husk and pulp using large amounts of water. “The polluted wastewater then often flows back into nature, contaminating the surrounding environment and water people use to drink, wash and play in,” Henriette explains.

UTZ farmers are trained to implement better water management techniques to tackle the problems created through wet processing. These techniques include; keeping clean water separated from contaminated water, reducing water use through recycling water whenever possible during wet processing and by implementing a water treatment system to eliminate or reduce pollution caused by wastewater.

Change in action

Our wastewater project in Central America is a prime example of how wastewater can be repurposed and put to good use. The project turned wastewater from coffee production into safe, renewable energy that local families could use to power their stoves or farm machinery.

Biogas digesters, implemented through the project reduced levels of contamination in coffee wastewater by 81.3%

The project saw levels of contamination in coffee wastewater reduced by 81.3%

Marvin Mairena, a farmer and agronomist who was involved with the project, explained the dramatic changes they saw:

“In the first year the system reduced the levels of [water] contamination by 81.3%. We used to use around 1,500 liters of water per 46 kilograms of pre-pulped coffee. Now we only use 250 liters.”

Coffee farmer Jeremias Benitez Díaz from Honduras is also seeing the benefits of a sustainable approach. He explains why it’s so important to protect the environment and talks about the transformation he’s witnessed:

Sustainable coffee helps farmers adapt to climate change

Another issue facing coffee farmers is climate change. “Coffee needs very specific environmental conditions to thrive,” Henriette says. “As climate change becomes a growing concern, coffee production is increasingly being impacted by rising temperatures, unpredictable rainfall, droughts and other environmental issues, like pests and diseases.”

UTZ farmers are trained to address these problems by learning methods that can help them adapt to climate change in addition to methods that can help them reduce their negative impact on the climate.

Henriette: “Farmers can adopt good agricultural practices to better cope with the effects of climate change include things like planting shade trees, implementing efficient irrigation methods and covering the soil with compost to make it more resilient.”

But the UTZ program doesn’t stop there. “It’s also vital that we help farmers make risk assessments for their own situation so they can be aware of the effects of climate change in their region and identify the specific measures they want to implement,” Henriette explains. “Showing farmers how to keep records of things like rainfall is one example of ways we can help them decide which measures to adopt.”

Change in action

For three years, we have worked on an ambitious project called Coffee Climate Care (C3), together with the DE Foundation with 1,250 coffee farmers in Vietnam to help them adapt to the effects of climate change. The project introduced the farmers to farming methods that work in harmony with the environment.

Tran van Tho, a coffee farmer in Vietnam who participated in the project, explained the benefits he saw.

UTZ coffee farmer quote Tran-van-Tho Vietnam

Share the positive change you are supporting

By sourcing UTZ certified coffee, your company is supporting the protection of the environment in and around coffee farms across the globe. Tell your audience about it! Download our marketing toolkit on climate change for tips on how to tell your sustainability story, and read more about climate change here.

Also watch the interview with Henriette (3″26) as part of a documentary about the ecological impact of agriculture, its links with deforestation, climate change and the loss of biodiversity: