The Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C)
Petra Kuenkel, Vera Fricke, and Stanislava Cholakova
Collective Leadership Institute, Potsdam
The Common Code for the Coffee Community Association (4C) is an international strategic alliance in the coffee sector, developed out of a cross-sector partnership between Trade and Industry, Producer Organizations and International Civil Society Organizations, supported by German and Swiss development cooperation. It aims to enhance and mainstream sustainability in the entire mainstream coffee sector through developing a voluntary code of conduct. More than 100 representatives from over 25 coffee producing countries have participated in the international process until now. The partnership arose in consequence of the coffee crises at the beginning of the 1990s when managers from companies and development cooperation realized that ensuring long-term sustainability in green coffee production would require a more strategic and long-term approach.
In 2003, after one year of preparatory discussion within the different stakeholder groups which represented the microcosm of the entire coffee sector, the official Common Code of the Coffee Community (4C) project was launched as a business-to-business initiative in the form of a public–private partnership—project between the German Coffee Association (DKV) and the public sector—the German Federal Government. The unique approach was to bring together complementary perspectives, competencies and also diverse interests to achieve durable results. The broadest possible outcome was anticipated through a tripartite participation. The ownership of the initiative was expected to be with the multi-stakeholder forum. The public–private partnership project as such was in service of the
consensus-building process by financing all expenses related to the steering committee meetings and the involvement of experts, a secretariat, and staff for the latter.
Various tripartite expert working groups were held through members of the steering committee engaging even a wider range of people from the coffee chain. Each aspect of the code, the social, the economic, and the environmental dimension was addressed by one of these expert groups. The process of negotiating a common code between three stakeholder groups proved to be a very ambitious task, which was supported through the project secretariat staff. The secretariat organized the process, prepared the steering committee meetings and facilitated expert input when needed. Additionally, during the first two years a process consultant and partnership facilitator supported the process.
A very important milestone of the partnership was the development of a code matrix in a multi-stakeholder process with expert input within the first two years: the “Common Code for the Coffee Community”. The challenging task of including small farmers into the scheme and therefore the verification system is achieved through capacity building, support for the organisation of small producers into larger structural units—like cooperatives, federations or associations—and strengthening their managerial capacities in order to make sure that these would be capable to effectively support the introduction and monitoring of the 4C standard.
As a result of the growing interest in sustainability issues and 4C coming closer to actual implementation, new participants joined the 4C initiative. After having introduced first formal structures to make the verification system work, sustainable financing was elaborated on the base of a membership system. In December 2006 the existing partnership established an independent non-profit membership Association called the Common Code of the Coffee Community Association (4C). All former participants committed to become members of the new organization. The former steering committee developed into a much more formalized structure with a more formal administration structure and process and an elected membership system.
Since then the partnership focuses on setting up and managing the 4C association as a membership association, and on making 4C verified coffee available in the market. This was implemented in October 2007. The aim is that by 2015, 50 percent of the world coffee production should comply with the criteria of the Code Matrix.1 For implementing this goal the 4C Association still needs to broaden the membership base and make the potential of the association known to as may actors as possible in the value chain.
4C is a multi-stakeholder partnership that showcases the challenges in collaboration with different stakeholders, but also gives evidence to the potentials of international partnerships. It provides a very complex international example of how stakeholders within a value chain are able to work together toward a common goal for sustainability with outstanding and trendsetting results.