The 4C Code of Conduct

The 4C Association defines and maintains the 4C Code of Conduct, the baseline standard for sustainability in the coffee sector. The Code comprises 28 social, environmental and economic principles for the sustainable production, processing and trading of green coffee.

For each principle, criteria are categorized as green, yellow or red according to their level of sustainability. Green practices are desirable; yellow practices should be improved; and red indicates that the practice must be discontinued. At the entry level, a 4C Unit (producing group) can only sell 4C Compliant Coffee if its practices meet a minimum average of yellow as confirmed by independent verification.

The 4C Code also includes 10 Unacceptable Practices that all 4C Members and producer groups must eliminate before they join the Association or sell their coffee as 4C Compliant.

If you want to learn more about the 4C Code principles and 10 Unacceptable Practices, see our Illustrated Guide to the 4C Code of Conduct.


"Our producers and other business partners applauded the 4C’s traffic light system as a guide to step-by-step improvement in their operations. They also appreciate the better communication, feedback channels and improved flow of information with us. I strongly believe that 4C as a baseline and guidance for gradual improvements will change a lot in the attitude of people involved in the coffee business."

 - Samuel Thuo Mungai, Coffee Management Services Limited
4C verified Unit in Kenya -


“4C is a basis, a starting point. The next steps are easier once there is a solid basis first. What is more important is that producers get to see another reality, change their ideas and consequently their actions.”

— Osmar Moraes, Stockler Commercial e Exportadora Ltda, 4C Unit in Brazil —

Credible standard setting procedures

The 4C Association is a full member of the ISEAL Alliance, the global association for social and environmental standard setting organizations. 

The 4C Association adheres to the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice, which ensures that 4C standard-setting practices are credible and effective.

This means that:

  • the standard-setting process is transparent and open to interested stakeholders; 
  • the standard has clear objectives, and criteria that meet those objectives;
  • there is meaningful participation by those stakeholders that are directly affected by the implementation of the standard;
  • there is a balance of input in the discussion and in the decision-making on the standard; and
  • the standard will not create unnecessary barriers to trade.

Read the 4C standard setting procedures to learn about the process the 4C Association follows to establish its standard.

Contact details for standard setting projects

Every time a revision is proposed for the 4C Code of Conduct, the project description as well as the timeline are published on this section of the website. Moreover, all 4C members and stakeholders are informed by email.

Any interested stakeholder has the opportunity to submit comments and questions regarding Code of Conduct revisions to the 4C Secretariat. The 4C Secretariat collects and submits all comments to the Standards Committee for their consideration. 

For more information or to be added to our email list, contact:

The latest revision of the 4C Code of Conduct took place in 2009, with the revised principles coming into force in July 2011. You can read a summary of the revision process here.