Coffee is the world’s second most tradable commodity (after oil) which makes it a big and complex business. UK consumers drink approximately 70 million cups of coffee per day, in and out of the home. Whilst sales at coffee shops continue to grow, the amount consumed in the home is in decline (particularly instant coffee).
Generally, coffee is grown within 1,000 miles of the equator, from the Tropic of Cancer in the north, to the Tropic of Capricorn in the south. It’s grown in more than 50 countries with Central and South America producing approximately two thirds of the world’s supply. There are two main commercial types of coffee bean – Robusta and Arabica. Robusta coffee grows best at lower altitudes whereas Arabica is better suited to higher altitudes. Seventy percent of the world’s coffee continues to be grown on farms of fewer than 10 hectares and most sell relatively small quantities – sometimes as little as only a few bags per year – to local traders, co-operatives, exporters and manufacturers. This means it can be a struggle to make a decent livelihood out of the crop. Climate change is also posing significant challenges to smallholder coffee farmers.
We sell coffee both in store and in our M&S Cafés. We are actually the UK’s third largest coffee shop chain, selling 35 million cups of coffee each year in 450 outlets, all sourced to high ethical and environmental standards.
Commitments and targets
We want to lead our sector in sustainable production and consumption, offering our customers the good value, high quality products and services they expect from M&S, while respecting planetary boundaries and the need for social equity.
Our goal is to ensure that all the coffee we sell both in store and in our M&S Cafés is Fairtrade certified
. In our M&S Cafés our coffee is actually triple certified which means it is organic
and Rainforest Alliance
certified too. We are also committed to building resilient supply chain communities by investing in programmes which build livelihoods, protect the environment and improve wellbeing.
Coffee is very important to M&S. Our aim is to source the best tasting, best quality coffee from coffee co-operatives around the world. We source the majority of our coffee through two expert suppliers who have excellent relationships with our growers. We have been working with our key suppliers and many of the coffee growers for over 25 years and are very proud of the strength of our working relationships.
In 2004, we became the first retailer to source only Fairtrade
certified coffee for our M&S Cafés. We sold Fairtrade
only in stores from 2006. We took this decision to ensure that we have a viable coffee supply chain and to help strengthen the economic viability of the smallholder farmers within our supply chain. This commitment means that our growers receive over £180,000 a year in Fairtrade
premiums which goes to a communal fund for workers and farmers to use.
coffee standard only applies to smallholder farmers which means that all of our coffee is supplied by smallholder farmers – 20 co-operatives in total with key sourcing countries being Ethiopia, Peru, Sumatra and Nicaragua.
Our approach to sourcing coffee more responsibly is as follows:
To understand our supply chain and work with our main supplier to secure a quality supply chain
To support programmes which enhance the lives of people and communities
Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.
We are working with a number of industry and civil society organisations to tackle many of the challenges in the coffee industry. Outlined in more detail above, with our direct suppliers and Fairtrade Foundation
we are improving the livelihoods of our growers through the Fairtrade
premium that is paid.
We’re also supporting a number of projects in partnership with our suppliers and Twin Trading to enhance the lives of people and communities in Ethiopia and Peru.