KLM to serve Rainforest Alliance coffee

by JulieCraves on January 4, 2007

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines joins Asiana Airlines (Korea) and ANA (Japan) in pledging to serve Rainforest Alliance certified coffee on all its flights.  KLM serves 22 million cups of coffee annually.

This is a step in the right direction, but only a step.  First, the commitment is for "at least 30%" of the coffee it buys to be RA certified. This is the minimum level allowable by RA for a product to carry the RA seal.  It’s a familiar figure…remember the Yuban ad campaign?

According to the press release, the certified bean portion of KLM’s coffee comes from shaded coffee farms in the highlands of Colombia and the cerrado region of Brazil. I’m sure the Brazilian coffee isn’t shaded, since cerrado is savannah, not forest, and RA standards call for "Farms in areas where the original natural vegetation is not forest must dedicate at least 30% of the farm area for conservation or recovery of the area’s typical ecosystems."  I have yet to find a Brazilian coffee I am comfortable with, because the cerrado area is so unique, biodiverse, and endangered that I am reluctant to encourage any further expansion of coffee agriculture there.

I can understand the charges of greenwashing reported in the press, as environmentalists correctly point out that airlines produce massive emissions that contribute to global warming. An industry spokesman made a great point when he said, “While this is not a directly hypocritical move and it’s great that sustainable coffee is being used, it does not make KLM an ethical company.” 

I tend to think that any move in the right direction is a good one, which I believe is the outlook taken by RA when they are criticized for what appears to be aiding large corporations green their images.  If RA required 40% of beans to be certified to allow use of their seal, would that really thwart some companies from participating? Could they require a phased approach, with increasing volumes over time as a requirement?  Frankly, it looks like there needs to be a "next step" beyond these first steps.

Revised on March 23, 2014

Posted in Certifications,Coffee news and miscellany,Rainforest Alliance

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