Sustainability Platform

The coffee sector is confronted with many pressing issues: climate change, lack of interest from the next generation of coffee growers, aging coffee trees, and inadequate finance or land. Others deal with issues of gender equity in coffee and the responsible use of pesticides.

The 4C Association offers all coffee actors a platform where they can address these and other challenges. Issues to be addressed are brought to the table by members of the 4C Association.

The 4C Secretariat facilitates this by organizing forums, conferences, or working groups, and developing training tools or pilot projects. Below we provide a list of the activities that the 4C Association is already providing in its function as a pre-competitive platform:

Jerida Sinange, Environment and Certification Officer at Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, Kenya, discussing the issue of gender at the first African Coffee Sustainability Forum in Tanzania, February 2011.

Sustainability Forums

Since the first Workshop on Sustainable Coffee Development was held in Vietnam in December 2009, 4C Sustainability Forums have become a fixture in the services offered by the organisation. At these events the 4C Association brings together key stakeholder representatives from producer organizations, trade and industry, NGOs, trade unions, government and sustainability initiatives in the regions served. The forums represent unique opportunities to discuss sustainable coffee production, and exchange lessons learned and best practices. 

Go to the blog post on the African Sustainability Forums to get a feel for the 4C Sustainability Forums.

Working Groups

When there is a request from 4C Members, the 4C Association organizes Working Groups made up of experts to address sustainability issues. Currently, there are working groups dealing with climate change and pesticides issues.

The working group on climate change includes coffee producer representatives, roasters and traders, civil society, major research institutes and project implementers in the field. Click here to read more about their work.

The working group on pesticides was formed in cooperation with the Pesticide Action Network (PAN UK), a 4C Member. The group collects information and provides coffee producers with tools and guidance on how to tackle pesticide use challenges efficiently. Members of the working group include representatives from major roasters, traders, research institutes and civil society organizations.

As a first step, the working group developed a table comparing the 4C Red List with lists from other sustainability standards. The Red List is a compilation of all pesticides that need to be phased out to achieve the recommended level of best practices per the 4C Code of Conduct. The table provides an overview of prohibited or restricted pesticides are and those that need to be phased out.


The 4C Association also facilitates partnerships between coffee farmers and development partners, private companies or donors, to help producers confront specific sustainability issues.

The sustainable coffee project in West Lampung, South Sumatra, was created in cooperation with PT Indo CafCo (part of the ECOM group) and with funding from Kraft Foods. The 4C Association initiated this 13-month project in May 2011 to promote sustainable production methods for 336 participating coffee farmers while also improving productivity and quality. Read more about the project in 4C Voices.

Sharing tools and training

The 4C System is a global cooperation network made up of members committed to sustainable development in the coffee sector. Whether in the framework of international projects or individual sustainability campaigns, 4C Members share their know-how and resources to help coffee producers in their sustainability journey. Such initiatives can also take on the shape of training sessions on Good Agriculture Practices or the development of tools and training materials.

All 4C Members also have access to the 4C Tool Library, a growing range of tools and materials to help farmers learn about good practices and how to implement them. This online library also includes documents related to the 28 Principles of the 4C Code of Conduct and the 10 Unacceptable Practices. The training material consists mostly of manuals, handbooks, useful brochures and booklets, material such as posters and flyers, as well as key internet resources.

If you are already a registered member of the 4C Association, go to the Members section of the website to access the Tool Library.