About · What is 4C

Providing independent, credible and innovative solutions for sustainable supply chains

The 4C Certification System

The Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C) was is an independent, stakeholder-driven, internationally recognized sustainability standard for the entire coffee sector, aiming at anchoring sustainability in coffee supply chains. Independent third-party audits ensure compliance with sustainability criteria for coffee production and processing from the economic, social, and environmental dimensions to establish credible and traceable sustainable coffee supply chains.

4C’s sustainability principles and criteria are set out in the 4C Code of Conduct, which was developed in a comprehensive and transparent multi-stakeholder process. The focus of the 4C Code of Conduct is sustainable production of coffee green bean and its post-harvest activities.

The 4C certification aims to gradually raise the social, economic, and environmental conditions of coffee production and processing worldwide. In order to achieve this, the 4C Code of Conduct comprises:

  • 12 principles across economic, social and environmental dimensions based on good agricultural and management practices as well as international conventions and recognized guidelines accepted in the coffee sector
  • 45 criteria, entailing specific check-points to be controlled during the audit in order to verify compliance with the respective criteria
  • 3 compliance levels, allowing for a smooth entry into certification and ensuring the continuous improvement of the certified producers.

The dimensions of sustainability

The principles of the 4C Code of Conduct promote three recognized pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental:

Economic Sustainability

  • Principle 1.1 – Business Management – 5 criteria
  • Principle 1.2 – Capacity and Skill Development – 1 criterion
  • Principle 1.3 – Access to Services and Market Information – 2 criteria
  • Principle 1.4 – Traceability – 1 criterion

Social Sustainability

  • Principle 2.1 – Human and Labour Rights – 14 criteria
  • Principle 2.2 – Working Conditions – 7 criteria

Environmental Sustainability

  • Principle 3.1 – Protection of Biodiversity and High Carbon Stock Areas – 4 criteria
  • Principle 3.2 – Use of Pesticides and Other Hazardous Chemicals – 3 criteria
  • Principle 3.3 – Soil Conservation and Fertility – 2 criteria
  • Principle 3.4 – Water Conservation – 4 criteria
  • Principle 3.5 – Waste Management – 1 criterion
  • Principle 3.6 – Energy Consumption -1 criterion

4C supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Through the strict application of the principles of the 4C Code of Conduct, 4C contributes to the protection of landscapes with high biodiversity and carbon values, the protection of natural resources, and better working conditions along the supply chain. Good agricultural practices and the participation in sustainable global supply chains significantly improve the livelihoods of farmers, their families, and the local communities. The resulting impacts, directly and indirectly, contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly. The goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace,and justice.

4C Services GmbH

4C Services is a global assurance service provider delivering high quality, innovative and credible solutions to the coffee sector.

Our vision and mission:

As an independent, stakeholder-driven, internationally recognized sustainability standard for the entire coffee sector, 4C aims at anchoring sustainability in coffee supply chains across environmental, social and economic dimensions. 4C is a credible and robust system, applying innovative audit and risk assessment procedures, and is strengthened by a comprehensive integrity program. 4C brings real impact on the ground, enabling continuous improvement and enhancing smallholder livelihoods, and supports companies in achieving and keeping their sustainability commitments.

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