Seeking Sustainability: COSA Preliminary Analysis of Sustainability Initiatives in the Coffee Sector

By Jason Potts, Daniele Giovannucci, Jason Potts, Bernard Killian, Christopher Wunderlich, Susana Schuller, Gabriela Soto, Kira Schroeder, Isabelle Vagneron, Fabrice Pinard on October 29, 2008

The growing economic value and consumer popularity of sustainability standards inevitably raise questions about the extent to which their structure and dynamics actually address many environmental, economic and public welfare issues.

The Committee on Sustainable Assessment (COSA) was formed, in part, to develop a scientifically credible framework capable of assessing the impacts associated with the adoption of sustainability initiatives. This paper examines the pilot phase of vetting and testing the COSA method, a farm management tool used to gather and analyze data using economic, environmental and social metrics.

This COSA method pilot test involves vetting and testing over 50 farms in five countries—including Kenya, Peru, Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua—who were using the most widely-known sustainability initiatives: Fair Trade, Organic, Utz Certified and Rainforest Alliance. In the testing process, certified farms are compared with their conventional counterparts along social, economical and environmental indicators. These indicators include net income, biodiversity and soil health, market access, occupational health and safety, employment contracts and aggregate producer satisfaction. Given the small sample represented, the results of this testing process should be considered observations rather than firm conclusions or generalizations.

Publication details

IISD, CIRAD, CATIE and CIMS 2008, 2008