As more claims are being exposed by the media, it is prudent for corporate leaders to consider the integrity of their sustainability claims. To paraphrase from a Tom Cruise hit movie, ‘show me the evidence’ is becoming a core due diligence requirement for the most valuable and well-managed global brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Even the work of some NGOs is no longer accepted at face value, as some have become adept at taking payments but not achieving results. The objective is to rise above ad hoc reporting to the responsible approach of verifiable metrics that align with global best practices. It does not have to be complicated.

The Global Coffee Platform is taking the opportunity to lead the way by guiding its members through a shared understanding of a few simple, science-based metrics for sustainable coffee.

Sure, there is resistance from those who prefer to make empty claims and to maintain their profitable status quo. But it seems clear that increasing visibility and scrutiny as part of a hyper-connected world is inexorable. Will the industry’s overall common good prevail?

Better metrics unveil the performance of supply chains and projects and make it easier to calculate the return on sustainability investments. When companies, farmers, and governments can see what works, it becomes possible to scale up. Everyone involved benefits.

With the technical support of COSA (The Committee on Sustainability Assessment), and the partnership of ISEAL and its members, these metrics can now begin to enable learning that has not been possible to date. That should be salubrious as we can learn about true costs of production, labor practices, and environmental stewardship. Clear metrics will also make more credible reporting possible – building on COSA’s trusted experience developing optimal metrics globally for the UN’s FAO and the Inter-American Development Bank.

If the old business adage ‘you cannot manage what you cannot measure’ is true, then COSA’s president Daniele Giovannucci states emphatically that “organizations that have not figured out how to credibly measure are unlikely to have an effective sustainability program”. Fortunately, a number of leading firms we know are pursuing sustainability realistically but many still struggle with understanding the sustainability within their own supply chain.

COSA’s Senior Measurement Systems Manager, Jessica Mullan will address the upcoming Global Coffee Sustainability Conference in Brazil to communicate the power of good metrics to propel coffee to being a truly sustainable commodity.