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The Rainforest Alliance and Nestlé Nespresso Announce Advances in Quest for Sustainable Quality Coffee

June 22, 2009

Thousands of farmers from Latin America to Africa will benefit as a coffee company passionate about quality, and an international conservation organization dedicated to protecting biodiversity launch a new phase of collaboration. The Rainforest Alliance and Nestlé Nespresso today signed a pact called "Ecolaboration." One of the shared goals is to reduce the environmental impacts and increase the social benefits of coffee cultivation in enough tropical regions so that 80 percent of Nespresso's coffee comes from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms by the year 2013.

Certified farms comply with comprehensive standards covering all aspects of sustainable farming, including soil and water conservation, protection of wildlife and forests, and ensuring that farm workers, women and children have all the proper rights and benefits, such as good wages, clean drinking water, access to schools and health care and security. Over the past five years, Nespresso and the Rainforest Alliance have been on a quest to demonstrate that managing farms in ways that benefit workers and wildlife can actually improve the taste of the resulting brew.

Stitching a Coffee Bag

This is music to the ears of the six million members of the Nespresso club that are on their own personal quests to find the perfect espresso. Nespresso coffee comes in capsules that, when popped into a highly engineered Nespresso machine, deliver a hot frothy espresso. For their part, coffee farmers are enthused to join Nespresso and the Rainforest Alliance in the search for "sustainable quality," because growing high-value quality beans usually is a ticket to financial stability. An estimated 80,000 farmers will be in the sustainable quality program by the end of the 2012 - 2013 harvest season.

The farms will meet guidelines for farming that integrate the three spheres of sustainability -- economic viability, environmental conservation and social justice. The Rainforest Alliance and other nonprofit groups formed the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) in the early 1990s to develop the standards and have since helped thousands of farmers adopt them on farms growing a variety of crops in 22 tropical countries.

During years of fieldwork in coffee-growing areas, specialists in sustainable farm management from the Rainforest Alliance and the SAN joined coffee quality experts from Nespresso and exporting companies to explore every detail of farm and mill management to identify social and environmental improvements that can also improve quality.

Shade-Grown Coffee

"The happy marriage of sustainability and quality proves the importance of an integrated approach, one that results in benefits for farmers, wildlife, ecosystems and communities," says Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance.

Richard Girardot, CEO of Nestlé Nespresso concurs, "We want to share value with the farmers who grow these highly prized coffees. Their quality of life, environmental quality and quality in the cup are equally interlinked."

Agronomists and ecologists from the company and the NGOs have developed a training program that helps farmers meet the SAN standards as well as the sustainable quality requirements. There are many beneficial synergies. The forest canopy over coffee bushes on most certified farms provide habitat for countless wildlife species; beans that grow in the natural shade are better quality. Protecting streams ensures that mills will have clean water to process the beans. Healthy soils, naturally enriched by organic matter, grow better quality coffee. Workers that receive good wages and training are motivated to take care of the coffee from the time the flowers appear to the dried bean at the end of the milling process.

Farmers are enrolled in the program and are making progress toward "Sustainable Quality" in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Kenya and Mexico. Clusters of farms capable of meeting Nespresso's demanding quality requirements also have been identified in Ethiopia, India and Nicaragua and are poised to join the program under the new Ecolaboration between the Rainforest Alliance and Nespresso.

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