4C is voluntary, open, inclusive and participatory. We offer guidance for sustainable agriculture practices in the production, processing and trading of green coffee, the raw material used by roasters to produce the final beverage. 4C includes a support network where coffee companies and research organisations cooperate to help farmers. Those who buy 4C coffee are committed to buying increasing amounts of coffee over time while contributing to these support mechanisms for coffee producers.
The 4C Association shares responsibilities along the whole supply chain. Because the Code criteria have been developed as a traffic light system of red, yellow and green, coffee farmers can easily identify areas where they are already on track, and other areas which require more work. They self-monitor their progress and can see for themselves how they are improving. Independent third-party verifiers carry out a system of random inspections to ensure accuracy.
Another aspect that is important for coffee farmers is training. Farmers clearly benefit from knowing how to apply the most recent responsible agriculture development techniques.
4C members represent around 50 percent of the potential coffee supply and over 65 percent of the potential demand. Its producer members come from many different countries including – in alphabetical order - Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia.
Coffee farmers are harmed by fluctuating coffee prices which make it harder for them to invest in the next year's crop. If we can help them attain higher efficiency, cost reductions and quality improvements then they are less affected by these fluctuations. At the same time, we can also promote more sustainable agriculture by encouraging farmers to avoid pollution, use less pesticide and conserve water.
You won’t find the 4C logo on your pack of coffee, because the 4C concept is not about building up a brand image for communication. It’s about improving the production process to make it more sustainable. Of course, consumers can be assured that their coffee is a quality product produced with respect to society and the environment.
The success of the project would not be possible without non-government organisations like Oxfam and the Rainforest Alliance. Many other NGOs and unions, both in coffee-growing countries and elsewhere, also continue to play an important role.