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Sustainability: We all have a role to play

The chairman, chief executive and co-founder of Conservation International has explained how efforts promoting sustainability need to be founded on a collaborative approach, with everybody working together to safeguard the future of our planet and the people in it.

Writing for the Guardian, Peter Seligmann explained: "Today, industries increasingly seem to recognise that recycling and saving ecosystems is in our collective self-interest.

"I look forward to continuing this journey with its leaders. And I hope other companies rise to the challenge. All of us have a role to play in creating the next generation of sustainability."

When talking about 'other companies', Mr Seligmann was referencing the fact that Walmart – the largest corporation in the entire world – is making a great effort to address sustainability, urging its suppliers to minimise the impact that their operations are having on the environment.

Speaking about an encounter he had with the chairman of both Walmart and Conservation International's executive committee Rob Walton a decade ago, Mr Seligmann explained how they'd discussed how the corporate giant could make a difference to global conservation efforts by addressing the sustainability of its operations – in terms of both what the company itself did and the work of its approximately 100,000 suppliers on which it relies.

Ten years later and Walmart has just held its first Sustainable Product Expo, encouraging business leaders to seek to better not only themselves and their own companies, but also all those with whom they work. 

Not only is this important for Walmart's operations and the impact this can have on the planet, but getting such a corporation behind sustainability represents a shift in attitudes that may feed down to smaller firms, who will follow Walmart's example. 

After all, the expert explains how not addressing sustainability within modern enterprise is a completely false economy. Rather like buying cheap goods and then having to shell out extra cash to replace them more frequently, by neither embracing sustainability nor addressing climate change, the destruction of ecosystems, the issue of population numbers and so on, the future of many, if not all, businesses is doomed.

"As we have begun to see, development that does not take lasting environmental sustainability into account will fail. If we continue on our current trajectory, we won't meet the daily needs of the world's more than seven billion people. In the process, every business model we know will cease to function."

Conservation International's primary slogan is – "Nature doesn't need people. People need nature" – and we couldn't agree more. It sounds blindingly obvious but without nature, the coffee trade simply wouldn't exist. Therefore, its preservation via sustainable and Fairtrade business models is of paramount importance.

This is why at DR Wakefield we take such a close and vested interest in where our green coffee comes from, taking regular trips to the countries from which we source. Without this care, our industry doesn't stand a chance and so it is vital that – as Mr Seligmann rightly highlights – we work together, and continue to do so, to sustain and safeguard the future of the coffee trade.