My coffee grinder shook like a rocket about to blast-off. The smell of burning plastic mixed with that of the freshly ground coffee as 230 volts surged through the UK outlet and blew out the motor of my US grinder, designed for mere 120 volts. Maybe I should have heeded the voltage warning – add it to the list of things I’ve been learning as a New Yorker who recently relocated to the UK: cars drive on the other side of the road, “chips” are fries and “crisps” are chips, “white goods” means appliances, yellow lights flash both before and after green, don’t even ask about the Oxford comma…
I moved here two months ago to lead the Knowledge Transfer Project (KTP) – a joint venture between Falcon Coffees and the University of Brighton. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to apply all my academic training and research to the real world – not that I’m one of those ivory-tower academics. I’ve done years of applied research in coffee-growing regions, but I’ve always felt that I could do more, that what we’ve learned in academia could have further reaching impacts. And, actually, that’s the purpose of the KTP program – to bridge academia and industry, providing a conduit for learning and sharing information. It’s a cool program funded by the government body Innovate UK with KTPs set up all across the UK. The types of projects run the gamut from creating cutting edge digital marketing tools and designing electric hovercrafts to developing hormone measurement technology to support cancer management.
The goal of our KTP at Falcon is to develop a methodology to measure greenhouse gas emissions throughout our coffee supply chain and then recommend approaches to mitigate those emissions. Emissions accounting (aka carbon accounting) and disclosures are starting to get more press – especially in the UK where the government has introduced Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting regulations for larger UK businesses.
Emissions across supply chains are not easy to track. More information is known about direct emissions from a business, also called Scope 1, like from company cars or in-house manufacturing processes. But then other tiers of emissions are a bit more removed and so figuring out how to measure them becomes less clear – like emissions generated by utility companies in the production of energy for offices, Scope 2 emissions. Further removed still are Scope 3 emissions which are basically everything else along the supply chain. As a visual person, I like way GHG Protocol illustrates what these tiers look like:
Source: GHG Protocol
Even for companies that have full control over their value chains, calculating emissions is a challenge. And for coffee, which is a global commodity, this becomes even trickier.
The coffee value chain begins in tropical countries where coffee is grown, harvested and processed and ends in import countries that buy green coffee, roast and sell it. The vast majority of coffee is exported out of the origin country (I have worked on beautiful coffee farms but drank instant coffee in the mornings), but coffee culture is changing and more places are retaining portions of their high quality coffee and shops are popping up that feature local brews.
Falcon Coffees sources coffee from 26 origins and ships to 52 countries around the world. Understanding the nuances involved with each step along the value chain is a huge undertaking. For the KTP, we will be focusing on the supply chain that starts with coffee farms in Peru, as kind of of pilot study, but with the aim to develop a carbon accounting and mitigation method that is scalable and translatable to other sources.
I am just starting off on this journey, but months of planning and coordination have already gone into the project before I arrived. A well-thought out, albeit daunting, 25-page workplan was given to me my first week which outlines 10 stages of the KTP along with 70 outputs that are due throughout the project. So far, we’ve done 6 of the 70 … We have our work cut out for us on this project and I’m excited to dig into it. I might just need ample infusions of coffee along the way…and a new coffee grinder.
Read more about this project here
About the Author: Dr Mandi Caudill is leading the Knowledge Transfer Project (KTP) at Falcon to identify and implement methodologies for measuring and mitigating carbon emissions in the coffee supply chain.