Lavazza reveals recipe for more sustainable coffee

Lavazza

You might expect an Italian coffee company to celebrate its 120th anniversary with an espresso-fuelled party on a sunny European terrace. Not Lavazza. Instead, the Italian coffee giant has chosen its anniversary to release its first annual sustainability report, outlining ambitious plans to infuse its entire company with sustainable values.
Lavazza serves 17 billion espressos around the world every year, and is the seventh-largest coffee producer globally. However, like many in the industry it faces a variety of sustainability challenges, ranging from climate impacts on coffee plantations at one end of the supply chain to the waste impact of coffee pods at the other.
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Consequently, the company has published a similarly wide-ranging sustainability strategy, encompassing everything from material use to employee health and safety.
“At Lavazza, we believe that innovation, sustainability and quality are interdependent,” Giuseppe Lavazza, the firm’s vice president, told BusinessGreen via email, adding that the report aims to provide stakeholders with an overview of the firm’s “economic, social and environmental sustainability”.
This wide-ranging approach has led to a report that is short on some of the traditional components of a sustainability report – such as future emissions targets – but big on ideas.
The most high-profile innovation highlighted in the report is Lavazza’s new biodegradable coffee pod, which was first announced in March. The capsule is made from a thistle-based bio-polymer. Once used, it can be collected with organic waste and sent for industrial composting, where the pod and used coffee are recycled together into compost.
The innovation follows widespread concern over the environmental impact of single-serve coffee capsules, many of which are difficult to recycle because they are a mixture of organic, plastics and metal components. Earlier this year John Sylvan, inventor of the K-Cup capsule used in Keurig coffee machines, admitted he “feels bad” about the environmental damage the pods have caused.
Lavazza’s new pods – which took five years to develop – are compatible with the brand’s range of A Modo Mio home espresso machines, and will be available to buy in Italy from early next year. “With this product, we intend to provide our consumers with a perfect espresso, while at the same time adding value to the product’s end life,” Giuseppe Lavazza said.
The company has also teamed up with fellow Italian coffee giant Illy to support a project to sequence the genome of a coffee bean. The research, conducted by the Universities of Padua and Trieste in Italy, sequenced the genome of Coffea Arabica – which accounts for 70 per cent of global coffee production. The research will help scientists develop super beans that are disease-resistant or adapted to suit extreme environments caused by climate change, Lavazza said in its report.
Lavazza’s report does include some conventional sustainability metrics alongside these high-tech plans. Since 2012 Lavazza’s direct emissions – which include thermal energy used by the company’s production plants, the firm’s vehicle fleet and energy use for its headquarters – have fallen by an impressive 17 per cent, largely thanks to improvements in the energy efficiency at its production plants. And as of 2014, all four of Lavazza’s Italian production sites are to run on electricity from entirely renewable sources.
However, there’s still a long way to go before Lavazza has fully mapped the environmental impact of its operations. In the report the company says it is “working towards systematically collecting data” in order to set “challenging goals in terms of environmental sustainability”. It is also working with the Italian Ministry of the Environment to map the environmental impact of its major products, the firm said.
It may be an unconventional way to celebrate a 120th anniversary, but with its inaugural sustainability report Lavazza is taking its first steps to ensure it is still serving espressos in another 120 years.

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