“Coffee for Good”: Spilling the Beans on Coffee’s Sustainability in Glasgow, UK

18 Jan 2024

Since we attended Terra Madre for the first time last year [2022], we have been discussing how to promote better coffee drinking in Glasgow—by choosing coffee that’s good for the environment and for those producing it. Now, as beneficiaries of the Slow Food Negroni Week fund, we have designed an initiative that delivers: Coffee for Good.”

Federico Lubrani, Chair of Slow Food Glasgow

Consumers are increasingly making more sustainable food choices by sourcing seasonal produce and prioritizing local suppliers. But they are less discerning in sourcing and consuming their coffee than they are their milk or their meat, for example—something that must owe at least in part to the relative lack of coverage the coffee industry gets. 

Most of us choose our coffee based on advertising campaigns or opaque certifications; we rarely possess the critical tools to discern a ‘good’ brand from a ‘bad’. And yet a growing number of (especially younger) consumers are demanding more from their coffee. We owe it to everyone involved in coffee—from its growers to its drinkers—to educate ourselves about the considerable environmental and ethical fallout of the global coffee industry. 

Today’s global coffee industry is mired in a myriad of ecological and ethical issues. 

First is the catastrophic environmental impact of demand-driven deforestation. Companies, in their pursuit of quick and easy profit, prioritize sun-grown coffee over more sustainable shade-grown coffee, contributing to the clearance of around 134 million hectares of forest each year. Then there’s coffee’s hidden water footprint. The UN estimates it takes 140 liters of water to grow, process and transport enough beans for a single cup of coffee.

Last, but by no means least, is the pervasive problem of labor exploitation. The bean-to-cup coffee production process involves many people as part of a multifarious process from growing and harvesting to packaging and roasting—right up to transportation and distribution. As a Forbes exposé reveals, farmers working under extreme heat for 10 hours a day may only make as low as 1% to 3% of the retail price.

Raising awareness about the current state of our food systems is central to the Slow Food mission, and our global network is engaged on a range of educational initiatives addressed at all groups: from conscientious consumers and producers to restaurateurs and business owners who believe in sustainability. The Slow Food Coffee Coalition has been at the forefront of this since its foundation in 2021. Drawing inspiration from the Coffee Coalition, Slow Food Glasgow is planning its own community-focused educational event, Coffee for Change, made possible thanks to the support of the Slow Food Negroni Week Fund.

Glasgow Buchanan Street

Glasgow’s Buchanan Street

Spilling the Beans on Coffee's Sustainability

In Spring 2024, Slow Food Glasgow will hold an event for Glaswegian cooks and restaurants to raise awareness about coffee production and connect them to the sustainable producers of the Slow Food Coffee Coalition. The convivium (a name for place-based Slow Food communities) held this event with one simple aim in mind: to spread the culture of good, clean and fair coffee by giving a global reach to the local communities involved in the Coalition.

Twenty chefs and restaurateurs will attend the event at the Glasgow Coffee Festival, furthering their understanding of the coffee supply chain and covering a range of topics related to sustainability and food equity. They will learn about transparency throughout the supply chain, covering issues like food security, inclusivity, traceability and the protection of human and labor rights.

Slow Food Glasgow will introduce participants to the Coffee Coalition’s Participatory Guarantee System, thanks to which every producer in the Coalition can guarantee a fair price for themselves and their families, and showcase a range of coffees for them to taste and learn about. Throughout the day, the organizers will also interview participants and collect stories from them, which can be used by the Slow Food Coffee Coalition to further share its impact. 

Federico Lubrani, Chair of Slow Food Glasgow and Project Leader for Coffee for Good

Federico Lubrani, Chair of Slow Food Glasgow and Project Leader for Coffee for Good

Working Together to Drive Change in our Coffee

Forging and strengthening partnerships is crucial to the Slow Food Negroni Week ethos.

In keeping with this, Slow Food Glasgow draws on the support of their national associations, Slow Food Scotland and Slow Food UK, in organizing this event.

The Ottoman Coffee House, one of the event partners

The Ottoman Coffee House, one of the event partners

Slow Food Glasgow has been working remotely with members of the Slow Food Coffee Coalition since first hearing about them at Terra Madre 2022. Since then its team has organized monthly Slow Coffee events and engaged with several national and international coffee-related businesses on the values of the Slow Food Coffee Coalition.

In 2023, Slow Food Glasgow finally got to meet their Coalition partners face-to-face while attending Cheese 2023 in Bra, Italy. 

The Slow Food Glasgow team at Cheese 2023

The Slow Food Glasgow team at Cheese 2023

What the Future Holds

Like all Slow Food communities and Convivia, Slow Food Glasgow shares a core set of values, based on creating resilient systems that regenerate rather than deplete our planet’s precious resources. All members are united in defending cultural and biological diversity, promoting food education and safeguarding the transfer of traditional knowledge and skills.

But while the Slow Food movement is global, its members carry out much of this work locally, empowering local food systems which are mindful of ecosystems, people, cultures and traditions. 

“We established Slow Food Glasgow to counteract the rise of a fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat,” says Federico Lubrani, Chair of Slow Food Glasgow and the Coffee for Change project manager.  “We believe that by working together we can spread this message well beyond this city, beyond Scotland, and gain everyone access to good, clean, fair food.”

Securing Sustainability through Food and Drink

Slow Food Glasgow’s educational initiative is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Slow Food Negroni Week Fund. Established in 2013 by Slow Food, Campari and Imbibe, every year the fund has been supporting projects to harness the power of food, drink and hospitality to promote sustainability, education, equity and diversity. 

The Slow Food Negroni Week Fund supports local community-led projects and magnifies networks that are transforming the global food and beverage systems. Its partners are united by their shared vision of a future in which everyone can enjoy food and beverage that is good for them, good for the people who grow it, and good for the planet.

Be the Change, Join Slow Food

Has Coffee for Good inspired you? Get involved in similar initiatives by joining our grassroots movement! Slow Food cultivates an international network of local chapters made of more than 1 million members and across 150 countries that host educational events and advocacy campaigns, and build solidarity through partnerships. 

Join Slow Food today

Sign the Manifesto of the Slow Food Coffee Coalition

Follow Slow Food Glasgow

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