Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain

, 11 minute read

Quick summary: Discover the impact of carbon footprint in the coffee supply chain and learn how to address it for a more sustainable industry. Explore innovative solutions like TraceX to measure, manage, and reduce carbon emissions while supporting coffee-growing communities. Join the movement towards a greener future for coffee production.

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As you sip your morning cup of coffee, have you wondered about the environmental impact behind your favourite brew? The coffee supply chain is a complex web of processes ranging from farming to roasting and packaging, each contributing to the carbon footprint in the coffee supply chain. Understanding and addressing this carbon footprint is crucial for the coffee industry to embrace sustainability and mitigate its environmental impact. 

A study carried out by the Natural Resources Institute Finland found that coffee farming and processing makes up 68% of a coffee’s climate impact, compared to 11% for brewing and less than 4% for transportation, roasting and packaging combined. 

In this blog post, we delve into the intricacies in the coffee supply chain and explore how measuring and reducing the carbon footprint can pave way for a more sustainable and eco-friendlier cup of joe. Embark on this journey through the fascinating world of coffee and discover steps to make your sip a little more greener. 

Coffee Market 

Globally around 9.5 billion kg of coffee is produced annually, with a trade value of US$30.9 billion. The coffee demand is expected to triple production by 2050 increasing pressure on forests and other habitats. 

Coffee is produced in more than 50 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is a source of income for about 25 million farmers worldwide. The initial production of coffee beans through farming, processing, and collecting is labour-intensive while the roasting and branding are capital intensive.  

The coffee value chain is made up of these phases, Cultivation, Processing, Roasting, and Consumption. Each of these stages has environmental, social, economic, and governance issues that influence the sustainability of the extracted green beans.   

Climatic Impact on Coffee  

Do you know that climate has a great impact on coffee like other agricultural goods?  

Contributing to the share of its carbon emissions, it has affected the landscape of coffee production. More than 60 % of coffee species are at risk of extinction as a result of climate change. Switching the export of coffee from cargo ship to freight flight increases the carbon footprint of coffee by 70 %. Coffee farming and processing make up 68% of coffee’s climate impact.  

Global Disaster 

At every stage in the coffee supply chain starting from harvesting, processing, transporting, and roasting, there is a release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Every cup of coffee we drink carries a carbon footprint. The carbon emissions at each stage in the coffee supply chain add to the total carbon footprint and it gets higher if we add milk and sugar. 

The Bean to Cup Carbon Story  

Let us see how each stage of the supply chain adds to the carbon footprint of your cup of coffee. One cup of coffee brewed with an automatic coffee maker has a carbon footprint of 0.209 kg of CO2e.  

In the production stage, the inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and fuel contribute to the high levels of carbon emission. 

The manufacturing processes of harvesting, dry milling, sorting also result in significant emissions. The amount of water, energy, and land required to contribute to the carbon emission. 

The packaging and transportation stages contribute to about 4% of emissions. The roasting stage also requires the combustion of fuel which results in carbon emissions. One pound of roasted coffee produces an average of 11 pounds of carbon.  

The greatest emission of carbon takes place in the consumption stage. The filter coffees require packaging, grinding, brewing, and disposal while the canned coffees require brewing, transport, canning, storage, and disposal. The heating, cooling, use of machines, lighting, and paper products, all leave a carbon footprint. Consumption of coffee accounts for nearly a third of carbon emissions.  

Why do we need to reduce the carbon footprint of coffee?  

In a world grappling with the challenges of climate change, reducing the footprint of coffee is not just a choice, but a necessity. Coffee is deeply intertwined with the environment, relying on fertile soils, water resources and a stable climate. By reducing its carbon footprint, we safeguard these precious resources, ensuring long -term sustainability of coffee production and preserving the natural habitats that support biodiversity. 

Coffee production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions primarily through deforestation, energy consumption and transportation. Reducing its carbon footprint will help to make a significant impact on mitigating climate change. Climate changes poses a threat to coffee production due to rising temperatures, irregular weather patterns and increased pests and diseases. Reducing the carbon footprint promotes sustainable farming practices that enhance resilience of coffee production.

TraceX is helping Technoserve brew a sustainable coffee | Know how

Coffee industry is a global powerhouse that connects millions of people and drives economic growth. Reducing its carbon footprint, demonstrates environmental stewardship and motivates others to strive towards a low carbon economy. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of the products they consume and reducing coffee footprint strengthens consumer trust and fosters brand loyalty. 

Coffee is among the top traded commodities after oil. This is going to cause pressure on tropical forests and habitats. Coffee beans are grown in more than 60 countries and 25 million families make a living in this sector. Therefore, in order to make it sustainable, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions needs to be measured at each stage. Life cycle assessment is being carried out in many countries to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of coffee.  

The selection of the right coffee brands also makes a difference. 85% of the national park in Indonesia was illegally deforested for coffee plantations, resulting in the release of GHGs. Coffee processing plants in Central America have resulted in water pollution and hence carbon emission. All these issues need to be addressed and switching to brands that source beans in ethical and sustainable methods are crucial to reducing the overall carbon footprint. 

The Sustainable Way Ahead  

Global biodiversity threats, economic health, food safety, and public health are the drivers of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture practices promote environmental conservation, economic viability for farmers, and social responsibility across the value chain.  

The Commodity Fairness index showed that almost 90% of producers are capturing a little less than 5 % of the value created by their coffee.  

The coffee industry is marred with environmental issues like water pollution and deforestation and human rights abuses. There are certification schemes that exist to ensure that coffee is grown ethically from the bean to the cup. Third-party certification schemes are the important regulatory systems applied to the coffee industry. The certification educates the consumer about the product attributes to gain a premium for the product. The coffee sector has a number of sustainable certifications like the Fairtrade Certification, Organic Certification, UTZ certification, and the Rainforest Alliance Certification.

Rainforest Alliance Certified is a label that sets standards for eco-friendly, shade-grown coffee.  

Starbucks created the ‘Shared Planet’ initiative in which they set goals on environmental initiatives, ethical sourcing, and community involvement. 

Innovation in combining CSR and business strategy goals should drive environmental sustainability, securing the future of the planet. 

Carbon Footprint Calculations in the Coffee supply chain  

If coffee has to become sustainable, we need to know where the GHGs are emitted through the production cycle which is done by the Lifecycle Carbon Footprint Analysis.  

LCA method maps out all the activities of production, processing, distribution, and consumption of the product followed by the quantification of the impacts at each stage.  

55 % of the coffee carbon footprint was generated during the cultivation and on-farm processing stage, 30% during consumption, and the remaining 15 % from transportation, processing, and waste disposal.  

The Carbon Footprint (CFP) describes the quantity of GHG emitted by the product or process, expressed in tons of CO2e. Product Carbon Foot printing (PCF) is used to calculate GHG emissions from food supply chains. The CFP of product measures emissions throughout its lifecycle from cradle to grave. While CFP focuses only on GHG emissions, LCA encompasses all other aspects like water pollution, eutrophication, toxicity, and energy consumption.  

The Sustainability Initiative Agriculture platform (SAI) developed Carbon Footprint -Product Category rules (CFP-PCR) to provide a robust method for the calculation of GHG emissions in the coffee value chain. 

It provided credibility to the calculations, based on which informed decisions could be taken to reduce the emissions at each stage.  

Reducing the Carbon footprint of Coffee 

1Emissions vary across each stage in the coffee supply chain and it is the responsibility of each of the stakeholders in the chain to establish strategies and take actions accordingly.  

Organic and Fair-Trade Coffee 

Organic coffee cultivation eschews the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, safeguarding the health of soil, water and biodiversity. Simultaneously, fair trade coffee ensures that coffee farmers receive equitable compensation for their beans, enabling them to invest in sustainable practices and enhance their overall well-being. While organic and fair-trade coffee might come at a slightly higher price point, they often offer superior taste and quality, making them a worthwhile choice. 

Shade Grown and Low Emission Coffee 

You can further diminish the carbon footprint associated with your coffee habits by selecting shade-grown and low-emission coffee options. Shade-grown coffee is nurtured beneath a lush tree canopy, serving as a habitat for wildlife, a shield against soil erosion and a carbon sequestration agent. Meanwhile low emission coffee is processed using techniques that minimize water and energy consumption. These not only contribute to sustainability but also elevate the flavour and aroma of your coffee. 

Buy Local 

Another effective approach to curbing the carbon footprint associated with your coffee consumption is to opt for local purchase. Buying locally sourced coffee can significantly cut down on the transportation distance and fuel needed to bring the coffee from farm to your cup.  

Reusable Cups 

Another effective strategy to lessen coffee carbon footprint is to use reusable cups and filters. Opting for a reusable cup reduces the need for disposable cups that often end up in landfills or polluting oceans. Using reusable filters also reduces waste and conserves resources. 

Energy efficient brewing 

Brewing coffee with energy efficient methods reduces electricity or gas required to heat the water for coffee preparation. 


Composting coffee lowers carbon footprint associated with coffee consumption. Composting these grounds transforms them into nutrient-rich and eco-friendly fertilizers. Additionally composting prevents coffee grounds from emitting methane, a potent greenhouse gas, during decomposition in landfills.

Blockchain Traceability Solutions for Carbon tracing  

Traceability requires that sustainability data is transferred throughout the supply chain. Blockchain traceability in the coffee value chain ensures trackable and traceable coffee trade. Integrating farmers directly with markets, proving the organically and fairly traded coffee, QR codes recreating the bean to cup story, and validating the sustainability claims with digital immutable records, blockchain brings trust, transparency, and accountability to the coffee value chain.  

The biggest contribution of blockchain is the ability to measure carbon footprints along with IoT sensors and generate data that can be analyzed and aggregated. The carbon emissions can be transformed into carbon credits, that organizations can exchange to offset their carbon footprint. This transparent and traceable information can be used to neutralize carbon emissions.  

How TraceX is helping Companies to reduce Coffee carbon Footprint 

Trace Carbon empowers companies in the coffee industry to account for their production emissions, implement sustainable practices like regenerative agriculture and agroforestry and lead the way towards a sustainable future. By embracing Trace Carbon’s platform, businesses not only reduce their environmental impact but also unlock new opportunities for growth and customer engagement.

Learn more about TechnoServe’s sustainable coffee initiatives with TraceX solutions and how it has transformed their coffee supply chain.

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In conclusion, addressing the carbon footprint in the coffee supply chain is crucial for promoting sustainability and combating climate change. By understanding and mitigating the environmental impact of coffee production, we can contribute to a greener and more responsible industry. With the adoption of innovative solutions like Trace Carbon, companies and stakeholders can measure, manage and reduce their carbon emissions while also promoting sustainable practices and supporting the well-being of coffee-growing communities. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The carbon footprint of the coffee supply chain refers to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced from coffee cultivation, processing, transportation, and consumption. It includes emissions from various stages, such as farming practices, coffee processing, packaging, transportation, and brewing.

Companies can reduce the carbon footprint in the coffee supply chain through various strategies. These include promoting sustainable farming practices, adopting energy-efficient processing methods, optimizing transportation routes, using eco-friendly packaging, and encouraging responsible coffee consumption.

TraceX sustainability and carbon management solutions empower businesses to measure, manage, and reduce their carbon footprint, ensuring they make meaningful progress toward their sustainability objectives while remaining compliant with industry standards and regulations.
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Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

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Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

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Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

Download your Coffee Carbon Footprint in the Coffee Supply Chain here

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