"Can I get a cup of coffee with that sustainability?" An Analysis of the Environmental, Ethical, and Economic Aspects of the Coffee Industry
Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Department of Environmental Studies
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Tri-College users only
This paper aims to accomplish three main objectives; the first is to evaluate the coffee industry using the triple bottom line theory. This theory uses the social, environmental, and economic components of business to analyze sustainability and it emphasizes the inherent tensions between each component. The second objective is to make the coffee industry more transparent for the general public. A significant disconnect exists between the consumers and producers of coffee, resulting in a lack of awareness around environmental and social injustices. The last objective is to educate consumers on how to purchase coffee ethically, diswayding consumers from solely relying on certifications. In order to achieve these objectives, we conducted three case studies. We consulted three roasters in Philadelphia: La Colombe, ReAnimator, and Elixr, focusing on a single origin coffee from each shop; one from Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and El Salvador, respectively. Using the triple bottom line framework, we analyzed the roaster and the coffee industry in each of these countries to highlight the main environmental, economic, and social dynamics that the consumer should be aware of. The trade-offs vary between each country, but often involve an economic component due to the power of capital. When purchasing coffee we recommend consumers identify the country of origin, look for transparency, start a dialogue with the roaster to learn about buying practices, and support shade-grown coffee.