USAID Partners with Nestlé to Boost Low-Carbon Coffee Production in Southeast Asia
February 23, 2021 (BANGKOK) – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Green Invest Asia project has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nestlé aimed at reducing the company’s coffee carbon footprint in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and South Sumatra, Indonesia. The partnership will help inform the company’s strategy for future low-carbon interventions in the region.
“We’re excited to partner with USAID Green Invest Asia to better understand how to lower the carbon footprint of coffee production in Vietnam and Indonesia. This will help design our new Nescafé sustainability roadmap to be published before the end of the year and will pave the way to our contribution to Nestlé’s net zero commitment”, said Wouter De Smet, Nestlé’s Green Coffee Farmer Connect Manager covering Africa, Oceania, and Asia.
By 2050, Nestlé has committed to be “net zero” and to lower the environmental footprint of its operations. Its interim goal is to halve greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2030. In 2018, the company estimated its such emissions at 92 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
“We are collaborating with companies like Nestlé to reach ambitious emission reduction targets,” said Christy Owen, head of USAID Green Invest Asia, a regional technical services facility supporting agriculture and forestry companies committed to environmental and social responsibility, to scale climate-smart low-emission production. Coffee is a target commodity to cut emissions, which contribute to climate warming.
“Given that every fraction of additional warming threatens more lives and livelihoods, we have no choice but to be ambitious. Carbon neutrality is not simply an option, but, rather, an urgent imperative,” said Owen.
Vietnam and Indonesia are among the world’s top coffee producers – Vietnam is the world’s second highest exporter and Indonesia is the fourth. Vietnam is also the world’s largest producer of Robusta variety of coffee. Both countries’ agriculture sectors are high contributors to total GHG emissions.
Getting to climate-smart production
Two high-impact recommendations to cut agriculture emissions and increase carbon stocks are optimizing the use of inorganic fertilizer and intercropping, or planting multiple types of crops simultaneously. Vietnam’s coffee farms have some of the highest yields worldwide, but the sector uses more irrigation water and fertilizer than is required, which leads to high levels of GHG emissions, according to the agricultural risk analysis firm, AgriLogic. Nestlé is considering different forms of “regenerative” agriculture – practices (including intercropping) that limit the release of carbon emissions – as well as planting 20 million trees every year for the next 10 years.
A recent study in Vietnam’s Central Highlands by USAID Green Invest Asia showed significantly lower carbon emissions on highly diversified farms with multiple crops than on monocrop farms.
Under the new partnership, USAID Green Invest Asia and Nestlé will gather farm-level data from Nestlé’s dedicated supply chains in Vietnam and Indonesia to identify profitable, low-carbon farming models and seek opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint in Nestlé’s supply chain.
Together, both sides will publicize lessons and recommendations to support regional and global standardization in the industry.
“As a major buyer of green coffee in Vietnam, Indonesia and worldwide, Nescafé has an important role to play in taking on the coffee sector’s sustainability challenges like climate change. We cannot achieve this alone, but if all key players, including coffee farmers and their organizations, governments, coffee traders, roasters and consumers, work together, we can achieve our common vision of a sustainable and thriving coffee sector,” said De Smet.
“We are pleased to support Nestlé’s continued efforts in this space”, said Owen. “Hopefully, our co-investment through technical support can buy more time for farms to recover, for the coffee industry to replenish and for producers to prosper.”