High-street coffee-bar chain Costa has confirmed that within two years, all its coffee will be certified by the Rainforest Alliance. By September of this year, a third of its coffee will be RFA-certified.
The Alliance now certifies only farms which have reduced pesticide use, improved workers' safety, and ensured that workers have decent housing and access to clean water, education and medical care for themselves and their families. Wildlife and water, forests and soils must also be protected.
Each farm in the scheme is inspected by local experts at least once a year, and farms must continue to demonstrate progress in order to maintain their certified status. Farmers often find that the programme pays dividends in more efficient farm management, cost savings and increased production and coffee quality.
Costa has something in the region of a thousand outlets, and is in the middle of energetic international expansion. In 2006 the company founded the Costa Foundation to support coffee growing communities, and last year the foundation raised more than £300,000, which was invested in building schools, providing teacher housing and teaching materials in Colombia, Ethiopia and Uganda.
By Ian Boughton