About · 4C Impact

Impact and Continuous Improvement

4C in numbers

With an exciting year ahead of us, 4C Services would like to take a retrospective view on the year 2019 and share some interesting numbers about the 4C Certification System.

The following overview is only a very brief summary of the accomplishments of 4C and its system users and we are already working on a more comprehensive impact report to be published later this year.

As of 31 December 2019, 224 4C Units were certified under the 4C System encompassing more than 400,000 coffee producers in 24 countries around the world. 82% of coffee producers are smallholders, who are defined in 4C as farmers with a total farm area less than 5ha.
This covered a total green coffee production of 26,8 million bags (60kg) on 970 thousand hectares of farm area.

Final Buyers / roasters have reported purchases of over 9,9 million bags of 4C Coffee during 2019, which translates into an increase of more than 11% in comparison to the previous year. We are very pleased to see the growth in demand for sustainable coffee, the trust in credibility and reliability of 4C and anticipate this trend to continue in 2020.

Trainings and events

To build capacity of 4C System users, provide a comprehensive introduction to the 4C Code of Conduct and inform about changes of the system, 4C Services continuously offers 4C trainings and welcomed a total of 129 participants in seven different trainings during 2019.
These do not only serve the purpose of learning sessions, but also provide an opportunity for participants to exchange first-hand experiences and for us to receive immediate and valuable feedback.

In addition to the primarily technical trainings, we also organize events such as the 4C Global & Regional Stakeholder Conferences.
Having a broader target group we invite all actors of the coffee sector to join interesting discussions and gain insights into the sustainable coffee world. Speakers from different parts of the supply chain, NGOs and research institutes share their knowledge and solutions to the most pressing issues.

For a brief recap of our events and trainings, please refer to our last newsletter of 2019.

Conducted audits by 4C Certification Bodies

During 2019 Certification Bodies conducted on-site audits for nearly 100 producer groups to certify compliance with the 4C Code of Conduct.

74 individual auditors were involved in the team of auditors checking and recording the compliance of coffee producers and service providers or evaluating reports fulfilling the 4-eyes-principle of certification.

Around two thirds of the audits (66) were initial or recertifications, meaning the complete audit checklist is applied and a new 4C certificate is issued as a result. 28 4C Units received their first 4C certificate and therefore entered the 4C System during 2019.
The remaining 30 follow-up, addendum or unannounced audits have a limited scope and confirm the validity of a previously issued certificate.

Breaking down the total amount of audits by country, the vast majority was conducted in Vietnam (40), followed by Brazil (11), Indonesia (10), Colombia (10) and Mexico (7).

Types of certification under 4C

Initial

  • The first audit of a coffee producer group entering the 4C System.
    A positive decision results in a 4C Certificate with a validity of three years and always includes the requirement of two annual updates, which can be considered as desk-audits.

Recertification

  • Subsequent certification audits after the initial certificate issuance with increased requirements.
    Again, a positive decision results in a 4C Certificate with a validity of three years and always includes the requirement of two annual updates, which can be considered as desk-audits.

Follow-Up

  • 4C Certificates can be issued with the condition of an additional audit to verify implemented changes in crucial but easily actionable areas of the 4C Code.
    The audit has a limited scope on a case by case basis.
    If the requirement is not fulfilled – usually between 6 to 12 months after the original audit – the certificate is withdrawn immediately.

Addendum

  • In case the management of a producer group wants to include more producers or processors in a 4C Unit, an addendum audit can be conducted which has a limited scope in terms of sampling only the new included business partners of a 4C Unit.
    The original validity period of the respective certificate remains the same.

Unannounced / Surprise Audits

  • 4C Services may initiate additional irregular audits fulfilling its oversight role of the 4C System.
    These can be used to

    • verify compliance of coffee producers with the 4C Code
    • and/or confirm correct auditing practices by certification bodies and auditors.

Continuous Improvement

4C puts high emphasis on the approach of continuous improvement, increasing the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices over time.

During the audit, areas for improvement are identified and recorded in an Improvement Plan (IP) as actions with concrete goals and deadlines.
Each action is related to a principle of the 4C Code and therefore connected to one of the three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) or to the internal management system (IMS).

The IP is part of the document package submitted by the Certification Body to 4C at the end of an audit together with the audit report and all other related documents.

Unacceptable Practices (UAP) defined in the 4C Code are to be taken literally: Coffee farmers or processors for which a UAP is identified cannot be part of a certified 4C Unit. The UAPs include: Worst forms of child labour, forced and bonded labour, cutting of primary forests, destruction of protected areas and use of unacceptable pesticides. For all UAPs and the list of forbidden pesticides, please refer to the 4C Code of Conduct.

Depending on a case by case basis and the recommendation by the auditor and CB, the implementation of defined actions in the Improvement Plan are confirmed either through an additional on-site audit (“Follow-Up” audit with a limited scope) or a desk audit.
An updated Improvement Plan is always a required document for Annual Updates, which are mandatory desk audits during the 3-year validity period of 4C Certificates.

To get a better understanding, we would like to highlight the areas identified most frequently for the Asian and Central & South American region. Because of a relatively small amount of 4C audits in the African region during 2019, a summary would not be representative.
You can find a description of the highlighted principles below each chart.

Important: Necessary actions are identified with the goal of achieving impact through improved agricultural practices over time – in all three dimensions and the IMS. 4C Coffee is considered sustainable from the moment of certificate issuance and is based on compliance with the 4C Code of Conduct. The implementation of these improvements is to further advance sustainable agricultural practices, is monitored annually and required for recertification as described above.

Asia

Principle legend – for a full list, please refer to the 4C Code of Conduct.

  • 1.3: Record keeping to monitor profitability is promoted
  • 1.8: Mechanisms for traceability within the 4C Unit are in place
  • 2.5: Workers receive a labour contract and know their rights
  • 2.6: Working hours comply with national laws / international conventions and/or collective bargaining and overtime work is
    remunerated
  • 2.9: Employer assures proper occupational health and safety conditions for workers
  • 3.2: Use of pesticides is minimised and integrated pest, weed and disease management is improved with time
  • 3.3: Handling of Pesticides & hazardous chemicals
  • 3.9: Safe waste management is in place

For the total of 42 initial and recertification audits in Asia, identified areas for improvements have been recorded for principle 1.3 and 1.8 (record keeping and traceability) in 26% of the cases each.

The highlighted top 3 principles in the social dimension are all related to working conditions: Labour contracts, working hours and occupational health and safety measurements. You can find a detailed differentiation in the legend above.

Considering the environmental dimension, half of the audited 4C Units have improvements planned regarding handling of pesticides and hazardous chemicals (principle 3.3).

Central and South America

Principle legend – for a full list, please refer to the 4C Code of Conduct.

  • 1.3: Record keeping to monitor profitability is promoted
  • 1.8: Mechanisms for traceability within the 4C Unit are in place
  • 2.1: Equal rights are secured with respect to gender, maternity, religion, ethnicity, physical conditions and political views
  • 2.9: Employer assures proper occupational health and safety conditions for workers
  • 3.2: Use of pesticides is minimised and integrated pest, weed and disease management is improved with time
  • 3.3: Handling of Pesticides & hazardous chemicals
  • 3.7: Water resources are conserved and used efficiently

Summarizing the 15 initial and recertification audits in Central and South America a similar but not identical situation to Asia can be observed. Actions related to record-keeping and traceability (principles 1.3 and 1.8) were included in improvement plans most frequently when looking at the economic dimension.

Occupational health and safety of workers (principle 2.9) is followed by areas for improvement regarding discrimination (principle 2.1) in the social dimension.

Similar to the Asian region, usage & handling of pesticides and hazardous chemicals (principles 3.2 and 3.3) are recorded most often as well as efficient use of water resources.

Conclusion

4C continues to be a robust certification system, proven by the increasing interest of roasters to source sustainable coffee and choosing 4C. With 4C certified producer groups they can count on reliable partners to achieve their goals.

A vital part of the system is the inclusive approach, which enables coffee producers to enter certification while actively encouraging the implementation of better and more sustainable agricultural practices. This ensures the long-term viability of growing coffee.

We always pursue to further strengthen the credibility of the 4C System by listening to feedback by system users and stakeholders.
The report of a systematic impact assessment will be released later this year. To stay up to date subscribe to our newsletter.