We take sustainability seriously at DRWakefield.
Sustainability has been a part of our heritage since our coffee journey started in 1970. It is a value at the heart of our mission to “continually develop a sustainable, progressive and open approach to coffee”. And is a guiding star in our ethos of doing the right thing.
Over the years, we’ve championed certification to build a sustainable coffee chain. In 1993 we became the first independent coffee importer to gain a Fairtrade licence and acquire a European Organic licence. In 2003 we earned Rainforest Alliance certification and were presented with the Rainforest Alliance’s prestigious “Corporate Green Globe Award” to introduce and promote the UK programme. In 2021 we became the first UK-based green importer to become a B Corp company.
Our journey in sustainability is an ongoing and integral aspect of DRWakefield’s past, present and future. Therefore, it seemed like a natural extension of our values to measure our carbon footprint in 2021 to explore how we can become more sustainable moving forward.
However, what we discovered in this journey chapter was not quite what we had expected. And it has led us into a new phase on our sustainable voyage.
Climate Change and Net-Zero
Climate change has been a conversation on the international stage since it was first introduced at the First Earth Summit in Stockholm in 1972 (From Stockholm to Kyoto: A Brief History of Climate Change | United Nations). Today, climate change is an immediate threat to millions of lives.
The burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet. And to stop this, the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere must stop rising. One way to prevent this is to reduce emissions. However, climate scientists say that this alone is no longer enough. Greenhouse gases also need to be removed from the atmosphere if we are to reduce climate change. Therefore, limiting climate change will require a combination of emission reduction alongside removing greenhouse gases.
Net-Zero refers to this balance between the number of greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.
In 2015, at COP 21 in Paris, world leaders signed the Paris Climate Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by 196 governments. The Agreement’s goal, which came into force on 4th November 2016, was to create a pathway to net-zero by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, but preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius (The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC).
Greenhouse gas emissions must halve by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to achieve the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. Under the Agreement, each participating country must declare how much it will reduce its contribution to climate change by setting targets. The UK pledged to cut emissions by 68% by 2030 and has established a net-zero target for 2050.
For this, every sector in every market must transform. And we all have a crucial role in the journey to net-zero of understanding and becoming aware of our impact on the climate.
The Journey to Net-Zero
Understanding our role in the journey to net-zero and knowing where we need to get to is one thing. But to reach net-zero, we also need to know our starting point.
The roadmap to net-zero can be a long and expensive process, taking anywhere between five to ten years. One way of planning this roadmap is through carbon reduction goals set by the Science-Based Targets initiative, or SBTi. The Science Based Targets provide a clearly-defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in line with the latest climate science and the Paris Agreement.
A net-zero pathway is a journey based on carbon footprint calculation with SBTi goals. Therefore, understanding its carbon footprint is the only way for a company to plan a route to net-zero.
Carbon footprint calculations must be accurate if a net-zero pathway is to be determined. If the initial data is wrong, although the end goal can be changed later down the line (a process called Rebaselining), carbon reduction and offsetting strategies would not be formulated using the correct data, and the journey to net-zero would veer off course.
DRWakefield’s Value Chain Footprint
To understand our role in the climate conversation, we measured our value chain’s carbon footprint last year. We worked with leading experts in the climate change sector and used a widely recognised measurement structure called the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, or GHG.
The World Resources Institute developed and introduced the GHG Protocol in 1990 out of the need for a consistent framework for greenhouse gas reporting. It breaks down greenhouse gas emissions into three parts: Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions.
The emissions included in Scope 1 are the direct emissions of a business. They include those directly released through the operation of owned or controlled assets, such as burning fossil fuels or using company vehicles on site.
Scope 2 emissions are associated with energy consumption within owned or controlled assets released indirectly to the business. These include things like electricity, which doesn’t create emissions directly on-site but does off-site through power plants that generate and distribute it.
Scope 3 emissions are all other indirect impacts from the organisation. These emissions can be ‘upstream’, such as coffee grown at origin. And ‘downstream’, such as roasting. Scope 3 is typically the largest category in an organisation and can make up to 80% of total value chain emissions. But it is often overlooked and under regarded in carbon footprint calculations.
We collected our value chain carbon figures through a combination of our internal data and calculation methodologies designed to suit the business need, the materiality of the category and the availability of existing external data. The units of our calculations are reported in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (t CO2e), the standard metric measure used to compare emissions from various greenhouse gases based on their Greenhouse Warming Potential (GWP) by converting amounts of other gases to the equivalent amount of CO2.
The research showed that our Scope 1 and 2 emissions are small. Combined, they only contribute 11t CO2e to our business each year. This wasn’t too much of a surprise to us, as we’re a relatively small business with limited assets and business space.
Therefore, most of our carbon emissions lie in Scope 3, with a total of 190,061t CO2e. It was slightly unexpected how high the Scope 3 emission contribution percentage was in our supply chain. But what surprised us most was how our emissions were distributed throughout the various Scope 3 categories.
There are 15 different categories of Scope 3 emissions. Upstream activities include employee and business travel, processing of purchased goods and services, and capital goods. Downstream Scope 3 emissions include processing, use of, and end-of-life treatment of sold products. Scope 3 also includes all transportation and distribution of goods throughout the value chain.
Most of the total emissions in our value chain come from category 1a: Purchased Goods and Services (product). This category represents 54.77% of our entire value chain emissions. It includes everything that goes into producing and processing the green coffee we buy.
The second-largest category in our emissions was 11b: Use of Sold Products (indirect), with 39.1%. This includes everything that happens to the coffee we purchase once it arrives at the customer, such as roasting, preparing the coffee, and using complementary products such as milk.
Interestingly, category 4: Upstream transportation and distribution and category 9: Downstream transportation and distribution, which we thought would significantly contribute to emissions, amounted to only 0.72% of total emissions. A fraction when placed next to production and products sold.
Looking at this data, it was immediately apparent where our focus needed to be to have the most impact on reducing our carbon footprint. Categories 1a and 11b were the main carbon emission contributors in our value chain, so this is where we should target our efforts.
However, the SBTi has certain goal boundaries that include and exclude different Scope 3 categories for net-zero route mapping. For example, scope 3 category 1a is included in goal setting, but Scope 3 category 11b is not.
Given that Scope 3 category 1a: Purchased Good and Services contributes to over 54% of our carbon emissions and, given that the secondary emission contribution from Scope 3 category 11b sits outside the boundary of the SBTi goals, we decided category 1a was where we needed to focus on to plan our net-zero journey.
What does this mean?
It is worth noting that our collection of carbon footprint data was intentionally comprehensive. The GHG Protocol research is not an easy route to take. But we felt it was the right one for us, as it is the most sustainable approach.
Rather than calculating our direct Scope 1 carbon emissions and offsetting them for a quick fix, then claiming to be carbon neutral, we wanted to ensure we considered our entire value chain carbon footprint. This approach would enable us to fully understand our impact, making more informed decisions for long-term sustainable action. And by doing this, we also hoped to add some value to the coffee industry through the process.
What this meant, however, was that we ventured into unchartered waters. And this is where things got a little complicated.
Within our category 1a: Purchased Good and Services emissions, packaging accounts for only 0.14%. This means most emissions in our value chain relate to the growing, production and processing of coffee at origin.
We gathered figures on coffee’s growing, production, and processing using each origin’s best available carbon data. We then applied this data across our yearly sourcing volume from each origin.
Say, for example, we purchased 1000 tonnes of green coffee from Ethiopia during the twelve-month reporting period. This volume would be applied against the available data for carbon emissions of coffee production in Ethiopia, which would generate the tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) data for our value chain.
However, the available carbon data relating to coffee growing, production and processing is old and unreliable, at best. Much of the data this is available to calculate the carbon footprint of coffee production was inappropriate or misleading, as it doesn’t consider the nuances within our supply chain.
For example, over 40% of the coffee we source as a company is certified, either Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or Organic. But the data on coffee production doesn’t account for differences between standard and certified coffee practices. Neither does production data account for conventional or specialty coffee production.
For some countries we work with, there isn’t any data for coffee growing or production at all, meaning carbon footprinting for that origin was calculated using generic agricultural figures, which do not accurately reflect coffee production and cultivation.
In addition, we know many producers in our supply chain grow coffee sustainably, and with good environmental practices. Some producers we work with are already carbon-neutral or carbon-positive, like Daterra in Brazil and Coope Dota in Costa Rica.
This means that, although we know where the main carbon contributions lie within our value chain, we cannot rely on the accuracy of data calculations due to the discrepancies in existing external data.
If we were to set out a net-zero pathway for DRWakefield based on SBTi goals, we would have to be 100% certain that the route we took was grounded in calculations that are accurate, current and relevant to our business.
Unfortunately, we can’t afford to make this assumption with our current data. Without more accurate data, we cannot plan a net-zero pathway, as we cannot be sure where our starting point is.
For us, our journey in measuring our carbon footprint has taught us two things:
- Our focus on reducing carbon emissions in our supply chain needs to be on coffee cultivation, production and processing
- There is an immediate need in the coffee industry for better, more reliable and accurate data
Although our carbon footprinting experience hasn’t instigated the journey we’d initially hoped for – one towards a net-zero DRWakefield – we have learned some important lessons.
Firstly, we understand now where we can contribute to the climate conversation in coffee. We realise that we can leverage the expertise, work and research being done within our own supply chain, sharing our experiences during our journey, to help better the coffee industry and make carbon data in coffee more available.
Secondly, now we know our scope 1 and 2 carbon data, we can start making immediate changes within our supply chain where we know it will make a positive difference and develop some coffee projects with specific partners at origin working in carbon, while we work on filling in the data upstream in our supply chain to begin working towards a long-term solution.
We are excited to continue our carbon journey in coffee and are proud to share these findings with you and the coffee industry.
Looking forward, we are already working on some exciting projects within our supply chain and can’t wait to share these with you soon.