There is an immediate and pressing threat to the coffee industry. Climate change threatens to decrease the amount coffee that can be grown and the quality of the coffee farmers are able to produce. A study published by in the journal Climatic Change estimates that half of the land currently used to grow coffee could be unproductive by 2050.
In an interview in Time Magazine, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz drew attention to the threat and spoke about Starbucks and other groups’ efforts to adapt to and overcome the challenge.
Coffee farmers are facing significant hurdles to continue to grow and sell quality beans, including increased pest management issues, rising temperatures, and drought.
Many people rely on coffee for a jolt of energy. But a staggering number of people also rely on coffee as their livelihood (the Fair Trade Foundation puts the estimate at close to 125 million people around the world).
Thankfully for java junkies and coffee lovers, companies and farmers are taking action. As the world’s largest coffee chain, Starbucks is taking a leading role in publicizing the problem and researching solutions and strategies to adapt. They are investing and working with local farmers and researchers across the world to understand the challenges that climate change is presenting and to develop adaptations and methods that can help the industry continue to thrive.
Starbucks has invested in coffee research and growth support centers in nine countries, and has a $500 million investment fund aimed at supporting sustainability programs (e.g. testing new coffee varieties that are better suited to changing climates). Other coffee companies like Keurig are also investing in farmers and helping them learn and implement agricultural methods for dealing with decreased water availability.
The former CEO of Starbucks’ recent interview in Time Magazine renews attention on the challenges the coffee and other similar industries face and puts his former company’s efforts on display along with their collaborators. It truly is an inclusive process as they are sharing their results and working with others in the industry– they recognize that this is a challenge too big to take on alone and that together the chance for success is greater. The coffee industry’s ongoing project to learn and adapt is encouraging and gives hope that other organizations, companies, and countries can begin to work more collaboratively as well.