History of the 4C Association

The Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C) project kicked off in 2003. Since then members have made great strides to reaching agreement on baseline standards for the industry and bringing the topic of sustainability for the mainstream coffee industry to the forefront.

Below is a brief chronology of how the 4C system has developed and grown over the years.

Record-keeping of 4C Compliant Coffee at a FNC 4C Unit in Colombia. 4C Compliant Coffee was first traded in 2007


  • 2003: The Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C) project is set up with support from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the German Coffee Association (DKV). Shortly afterward, the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the British Development Cooperation and the European Coffee Federation (ECF) join the project. More than 70 representatives from over 20 countries – mostly representatives of coffee farmers launch an initiative to create the new association.
  • 2004 – 2006: A multi-stakeholder Steering Committee develops the basic elements of the 4C system, including: the 4C Code of Conduct, the Rules of Participation for Trade and Industry, and the Governance Structure. The 4C Code of Conduct is tested in various projects in coffee-producing countries around the world.
  • 2006: December 1, 2006 was a milestone in the development of the 4C system. On that day, 37 actors, representing producers, trade and industry, and civil society officially establish the 4C Association. Since then, the number of members has steadily grown (see members section) and the 4C Association has held two General Assemblies (the first in April 2007 in London, the second in May 2009 in Bonn).
  • October 2007: The 4C Association holds its first Coffee Year, which always lasts from October 1 to September 30. The Association reports to the public on the sales of 4C Compliant Coffee through its commercial reporting by the end of each respective year.
  • 2008: The Association opens its regional offices in East Africa, Central America and Brazil to coordinate support activities and projects in these coffee-producing regions.
  • 2008: The standards and systems of the 4C Association and Rainforest Alliance are benchmarked. Thanks to this process, holders of both the Rainforest Alliance Certificate and the 4C License have full access to the growing market for 4C Compliant Coffee. This opens up new marketing opportunities for producers who cannot sell their entire production under a specific certification scheme.
  • December 2009: The 4C Association opens its fourth regional office in the coffee region of DakLak province in Vietnam, the largest coffee-growing region in Vietnam.
  • August 2010: Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke announces the NESCAFÉ Plan, which assures 4C Compliance for all coffee purchased through their Farmer Connect/Direct Procurement network by 2015. This amounts to approximately 180,000 tons of green coffee per year benefiting over 170,000 farmers and their families.
  • February 2011: The 4C Council approves a new business model for the 4C Association during its 8th meeting in Tanzania. With this new business model, the Association switches to a demand-driven approach. The focus is now on activities that serve members’ common interests and create a favourable framework for buyers and sellers to better connect along the 4C supply chain.
  • May 2011: Kraft Foods announces an ambitious goal of sourcing 100% sustainably-produced coffee beans for all EU coffee brands by 2015. To reach this target, Kraft Foods will considerably increase its sourcing of 4C Compliant Coffee and certified coffees from other recognized sustainability standards.
  • September 2011: The 4C Association achieves full membership in the ISEAL Alliance, the global association for social and environmental standards setting organizations.