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4C in numbers

As of 31 December 2023, 205 producing groups were 4C certified encompassing more than 312,000 coffee producers in 19 countries around the world.

Over 93% of 4C coffee producers are smallholders, meaning producers whose workforce consists primarily of family and whose coffee farm is normally not larger than 5 ha (see 4C Glossary for the full definition). Total green coffee production amounted to 30.5 million bags (60 kg) on nearly 880 thousand ha of the farm area. In 2023, reported purchases of 4C certified coffee reached their historical height. We are very pleased to see the growth in demand for sustainable coffee, as well as the trust in the credibility and reliability of the 4C standard, and anticipate this trend to continue.

Map of 4C certified producer groups

Production of 4C certified coffee – Top 7 countries

4C certified production of Arabica and Robusta

Purchases of 4C certified coffee over time

Smallholders in the 4C certification

Countries with the largest number of 4C certified producers per continent

Female/male producer proportion in top countries with the largest number of 4C certified producers

Trainings and events

With the purpose of capacity building of 4C System users and informing them about any changes to the 4C System, 4C regularly offers 4C trainings.

In 2023, 4C offered several introductory seminars reflecting the main changes of the 4C System. These basic trainings on the fundamentals of the 4C System were conducted in English and translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Vietnamese. In total, 189 participants attended these trainings which provided a crucial update on the 4C Code of Conduct and the growing importance of chain of custody certification. These trainings guide participants through the certification process, ensuring a better understanding and application of the new requirements and audit procedures. 4C trainings are an important prerequisite for auditors before they can carry out a 4C audit. In addition to these basic trainings, 7 other training events were held on the Add-Ons that 4C has developed to address issues of growing interest and importance: reducing the carbon footprint in coffee production, and promoting and strengthening food security and gender equity in the coffee sector. In total, more than 240 people attended this group of trainings.

In addition to technical trainings, we also organised a series of webinars to support dialogue and bring the coffee and sustainability communities together.  These webinars covered topics of current and growing interest such as: improving the living standards of smallholder farmers and their human rights protection, the benefits and potential of regenerative agriculture, strategies to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of coffee production, strengthening gender equity in the coffee sector, the promotion of equity & human rights protection in coffee production and risk analysis and traceability to meet new due diligence requirements in response to new coffee export requirements & Zero-Deforestation Regulations .
Participants at these seminars expressed their satisfaction with the expectation that these series will continue in 2024. To download materials from previous events and register for upcoming sessions, please click here.

4C Fees and Income Structure

System user fees: 4C is not a membership organization but volume-based fees are applicable for 4C certified coffee purchased by final buyers. 4C Final Buyer volume-based fees are used for the advancement of the entire system, e.g. development of digital solutions, efficient audit procedures and traceability (€1.47 million).
Trainings & events: includes all participation fees for trainings and capacity building activities conducted throughout the year (€102 thousand).
Project fundings: Grants and fundings for sustainable development projects and initiatives coordinated and managed by 4C (€97 thousand).

4C audits

During 2023, Certification Bodies cooperating with 4C conducted 110 audits for 4C Units to certify compliance with the 4C Code of Conduct, whereas the remaining 4C Units have been evaluated based on their Annual Updates.

73 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 four-eyes-principle of certification. Around two-thirds of the audits were initial (35) or recertifications (38), meaning the complete audit checklist is applied and a new 4C certificate is issued as a result. Similarly, 4 audits have been carried out in 2023 for the issuance of 4C Add-On certificates, the voluntary extensions of 4C certification to address specific sustainability challenges identified in the coffee supply chain. The remaining 33 audits had a limited scope and confirmed the validity of a previously issued certificate.

Types of certification under 4C

Certification audit

  • Certification audits are the basis to issue a 4C certificate. Certification audits must be conducted during harvest season and need to take place on-site at least every three years.
  • The first audit of a coffee producer group entering the 4C System is called the “initial” audit. A positive decision results in a 4C certificate with a validity of three years and includes the requirement of two annual updates in form of a desk-audit.
  • Subsequent audits with increased requirements are called “recertification” audits. Again, a positive decision results in a 4C certificate with a validity of three more years and includes the requirement of two annual updates in form of a desk-audit.

Surveillance

  • Surveillance audits can be required by the CB or 4C to verify compliance with the 4C requirements during the validity period of a certificate issued by the respective CB. Surveillance audits may focus only on the implementation of specific aspects of 4C requirements and can be either on-site or desk-audit, depending on the means required to fully check compliance with the relevant 4C requirements.

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 newly included business partners of a 4C Unit. The original validity period of the respective certificate remains the same.

Integrity 

  • 4C may initiate additional audits planned randomly or on a risk basis after risk evaluations to fulfilling its oversight role and maintain the integrity of the 4C System. These audits are conducted by 4C auditors and are used to verify compliance of the 4C System users with the 4C Code of Conduct and/or confirm correct auditing practices by certification bodies and auditors.

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. If you would like to leave your feedback or report a violation of the 4C System, please use our stakeholder feedback form.

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