Image of coffee beans

From grew to brew: study seeks to build coffee industry sustainability

Business supply chain experts are seeking to make our daily coffee more sustainable on an industry-wide level. 

Research across the entire industry supply chain – looking beyond the farm to the whole production journey – could be the key to helping Australia’s coffee industry go fully ‘green’, claim Deakin University researchers, who have begun a new national study on coffee sustainability.

Undertaken in partnership with the Australian Subtropical Coffee Association (ASTCA) and funded by AgriFutures and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, this research is seeking to identify the current approaches to sustainability, sustainability objectives and the barriers to sustainability in the Australian coffee industry.

Lead researcher Stuart Orr, who is a Professor of Strategic Management in the Department of Management (Deakin Business School), said coffee growers need a clear system that can sustain and coordinate supply across the sector.

“Coffee sustainability research needs to focus on the entire supply chain because more than 40 per cent of environmental impact occurs outside the farm,” Professor Orr said.

“From transporting picked cherries by the fruit bin, to drying the pickings in gas-heated rooms, the on-farm activities can have a significant environmental impact.

“Beyond the farm, the picked fruit is then sent to a processing plant where the coffee bean is extracted, roasted and packaged before being sent to coffee bean traders.

“On a system-level, this research will integrate suppliers, growers, transporters and immediate customers into a unified and self-managing sustainability system, based on a refined and highly effective supply chain.

“This study will be the first-of-its-kind to achieve a coffee industry sustainability system and has global potential. From a theory development perspective, it will answer the research question: How do the three dimensions of sustainability governance interact in the context of supply chain sustainability in the Australian coffee industry?”

Image of coffee fruit on tree

Coffee ‘culture’ or domestic coffee consumption is on the rise with, individually, Australians consuming an average of 1.91 kilograms of coffee each year.

On a global scale, the environmental impacts of coffee production are sizeable, with the water footprint of a 125 ml cup of coffee yielding about 140 litres of wasted water per cup.

“Only one per cent of coffee consumed in Australia is produced by Australian coffee growers. The rest is imported from around the globe.

“Nearly 100 per cent of the coffee produced in Australia is consumed here, however, making it a small, but more environmentally friendly source of coffee for Australians,” Professor Orr said.

With 25 years of research experience in industry development, particularly in primary industries, Professor Orr will build on his previous research, including wine and flower sustainability measures, to pave the way to ‘greenify’ coffee industries.

He will also investigate the role of mechanised, high-tech systems in Australia, which are being introduced by the industry.

“When completed, I hope that this study will attract the attention of other coffee industry sustainability researchers and lead to some valuable exchanges of ideas.

“We are interested to hear from any researchers who wish to discuss the project as it progresses,” said Professor Orr.

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