01 October 2020
Serving Coffee Sustainably
How to overcome the challenge of meeting sustainability expectations in the coffee sector
Sustainability in the coffee sector isn’t a new concept, the industry as a whole is dedicated to creating a sustainable supply chain. However, there has recently been a significant shift in consumer’s expectations and awareness of sustainability issues.

In fact, BRITA UK recently conducted research which found that the main influences on coffee businesses’ sustainable practices is consumer demand, with 73% of coffee operators voting it as the biggest driver.

For suppliers in the coffee industry, whether they’re coffee roasters, machine engineers and manufacturers, or waste disposal companies, improving on sustainable practices to pass the benefits down the supply chain to operators and meet consumer demand is an ongoing challenge.

47% of coffee operators say a lack of knowledge about sustainable practices is making it harder to reach their sustainability goals, so they’re looking to suppliers to provide this intel. Suppliers need to be able to prove to operators which sustainable initiatives really make a difference and provide evaluation techniques so that they can easily measure and track the impact are having.


Firstly, ensuring supply chains are 100% sustainable is key – through working with likeminded partners and providing a product or offer that has clear sustainable benefits for operators.

It’s all about making sure that the service provided makes it as easy as possible for operators to adopt new sustainable initiatives and ways of working, as our research shows that time is a key barrier when it comes to adopting new sustainability methods.

Secondly, suppliers must be able to demonstrate the breadth of their offer and service available to operators. Our research uncovered the top sustainable initiatives coffee operators would like suppliers to focus on are:
  1. Reducing packaging 79%
  2. Sourcing sustainable food 52%
  3. Machine protection to help it stand the test of time 51%
  4. The energy efficiency of machinery 47%
  5. Sourcing sustainable coffee beans 46%
  6. Sustainable methods of delivering produce 25%

Sustainability is of increasing importance to the coffee sector, and for suppliers in the industry, continually improving on sustainable practices to pass the benefits down the supply chain is an ongoing challenge.

Research conducted in the UK only. Image: Vivreau.

At BRITA UK, we recently conducted in-depth research with coffee professionals to provide insight on the barriers to sustainability they face and discover what environmental initiatives they’re focusing on.

The research revealed the sustainable challenges which matter most to coffee operators are:


Eight in ten (82%) say they have already introduced methods to reduce single-use plastic in their establishment, for instance three quarters (79%) have removed plastic straws and two thirds (59%) have eliminated single-use plastic cutlery.

However, less than half (46%) of businesses have introduced incentives to reduce single-use coffee cups and only a third (34%) have installed filtered water dispensers to replace bottled water.

With this in mind, suppliers need to think about packaging in every step of their supply chain, such as using biodegradable coffee bags or re-usable crates, to ensure they are helping coffee operators to re-use and recycle wherever possible. 


53% of coffee operators see the energy efficiency of equipment as a top focus, and almost half (47%) think their equipment is letting them down by not standing the test of time. To address this, there is a requirement for operators to invest in preventative maintenance.

This includes methods such as routine cleaning using environmentally friendly solutions and installing water filters to protect equipment from limescale build ups, which can lead to higher energy usage and machine breakdowns.


44% of coffee professionals believe that working with sustainable suppliers should be a top priority and over half (56%) of coffee operating businesses would pay more for a supplier if it offered a measurable impact on sustainability efforts. For suppliers, demonstrating the breadth of their offer and service are the key attributes coffee operators are looking for.

We know that continually lowering the coffee industry’s impact on the environment is something which will become common place over the next few years. And, with consumer demand and awareness increasing, now is the time to invest in long term sustainable solutions.

For more information on how to overcome barriers to sustainability in the coffee sector, download the new toolkit from BRITA UK Life is Better Filtered: The School of Expertise – Serving Coffee Sustainably.

Insight by BRITA Professional UK.
© 2024 Coffee Ventures Europe Ltd.
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