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Coffee That Matters: The global impact of an ethical roastery

Together, through coffee, we can make a difference. 

We take our responsibilities as an ethical coffee roastery very seriously, so you can be confident that the coffee you chose to drink every day has a real impact on local and global communities.

Coffee is hugely important to many countries’ economies around the world. At Volcano, we know that we could buy coffees on the openly traded market, from unknown farms, based purely on the cheapest price for the quality and flavour we require. But we don’t. 

We invited Volcano's Head of Product, Nick Mabey, and Charlie Atkinson from Crisis to our inaugural 'Coffee That Matters' event, to tell us how Volcano Coffee Works' ethical trading principles support global farming communities and how Crisis Coffee supports people out of homelessness in the UK.

Nick decides who we purchase coffee from based on three main principles: Sustainable Livelihoods, Social Progress and Environmental Good. You can read our Ethical Principles here.

Uganda coffee farmers

"We put our efforts into working with marginalised communities who are committed to improving their returns and building sustainable businesses to support their community."

"Specialty coffee is based on the idea that if you pay more, and incentivise farmers to have better farming practices, the coffee will taste better and producers will be able to sell it for higher prices. That mechanism works to a point, but often bypasses the people where that value would have the greatest impact and instead increases the wealth of the richest."

"We have been working with coffee growers in Uganda for a couple of years now. Their coffee goes into many of our blends, including Crisis Coffee and the Firehouse Blend that is served at WeWork

"The main work we have been doing with the Ugandan coffee growing communities involves helping them understand how to increase the quality and consistency of their crops so they can sell for higher prices, as well as working out how to assist these growers subsist collectively as a sustainable business. 

"We work with Uganda's Great Lakes Coffee Sustainable Coffee Program to ensure that at least 70% of the money we pay goes directly into the farmers' hands, plus a portion reserved as a premium on top of that. This premium goes towards helping farmers improve their farming practices to achieve greater yields and better quality coffees. With Great Lakes' assistance we are helping the Ugandan coffee growers build water facilities located closer to where their crops are grown, and diversify the crops that they grow." 


"We select farmers and producers to work who have biodiversity at the forefront of their minds"

"Though the specifics of environmental farming can take many different forms across global farming communities and local cultures, we select farmers and producers to work with who have biodiversity at the forefront of their minds. Mono-crop farmers leave themselves highly susceptible to disease in their crops and rely on pesticides to maintain the health of their produce, whereas biodiversity generates natural fertilisers, plays an important role in natural pest control and increases disease protection for the coffee plants."

"We've been working with Santiago Londono since 2018, whose coffee is in our bespoke blend for The Conduit

"Londono's family has been farming the Hacienda Mallorca in Valle de Cauca for four generations. The farm is very eco-conscious, having started its sustainability programme in 2003. After the La Niña phenomenon of 2009-2010 it became clear to Londono that he needed to prioritise improving ecological resilience on his farm even further to protect it for the generations to come. 

"This eco conscious farm promotes biodiversity (Rainforest Certified) and a landscape design aimed towards resilience of the ecosystem - the natural springs on the property are protected by conservation forests and all of the water used in the farm’s domestic and industrial processes is filtered and treated before being returned to the environment."

Brazil female coffee farmers

"We support farmers who demonstrate they care beyond their own bottom line"

"'Social Progress' has a different meaning to each of the global communities we work with, but essentially means we support farmers who demonstrate they care beyond their own bottom line, and support social projects and actions in their local community. In El Salvadorian farming communities, for example, a lot of the focus of social progress is on educating young people and giving them reason to stay in coffee. In communities in Brazil, as well as Uganda, a lot of focus is placed on gender equity on the farm." 

"Women aren't allowed to own land or join coffee cooperatives in a lot of countries, but when they are and they do the practices on their farms become a lot more efficient. This is in part because female farmers tend to have a more holistic view of spending money. Their decision-making can proliferate more sustainable business practices. 

"We've been working with the AMECAFE group in Brazil since 2018. Their founder is Leticia Seda, whose farm had been a member of the Minasul cooperative for several years. When Seda found out  that her neighbours were settling for very low prices for their crops on the local market she took the initiative to found the AMECAFE group alongside 50 of her fellow female farmers so they could sell together and demand fairer prices collectively. 

"The group were aiming for Fairtrade prices for their coffee but did not have the resources to become certified. We offered to pay this price to them anyway (a price 125% higher than what they had been receiving) and absorb all risk. In 2019 we're going to help them reinvest more into quality practices, which will add further premiums on top of this fixed price model, which will in turn be invested back into their community."

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