How the latest G7 summit will affect specialty coffee roasters

Tori Taylor
July 20, 2021
g7 summit 2021

Every year since 1975, leaders from seven of the world’s most advanced economies have met to discuss a range of topics, from sustainability to human rights. Known as the G7 (Group of Seven) summit, its aim is to facilitate combined responses to many of the world’s problems, as well as helping developing countries improve their economic standing.

At each summit, a number of decisions are made that have an impact on the entire world. As such, it’s important for businesses to have an idea of what was discussed so that they can act accordingly.

This year, the G7 summit took place in the UK and focused on Covid-19 recovery, climate change, and biodiversity loss, among other issues. A number of pledges were made, particularly concerning the environment and the global economy, which will undoubtedly affect specialty coffee roasters.

wind turbines
Among the main topics at the G7 summit 2021 were climate change and Covid-19 recovery

What happened at the latest G7 summit?

In June 2021, leaders from the US, Canada, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, the UK, South Korea, Australia, India, and South Africa met in Cornwall, UK for the 47th G7 summit. 

Naturally, Covid-19 and the road to recovery topped the agenda, with agreements on building a better response to pandemics and setting vaccination targets for the whole world.

But a number of other important issues were discussed, too. Among the most significant was sustainability and how G7 countries would work towards a “green revolution”.

Specifically, the leaders agreed to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. They also committed to protecting and conserving at least 30% of land and oceans by 2030.

Additionally, they discussed “Build Back Better for the World”, a plan that promises to finance green infrastructure projects, help developed countries limit their reliance on coal, and shift towards more sustainable energy sources. 

Each of the leaders agreed to raise their contributions to $100 billion a year to help developing countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, said he hoped the G7 talks would help the world “build back better” from the Covid-19 pandemic and “create a greener, more prosperous future”.

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coffee roasting
Some of the pledges made at the latest summit could have long-term implications for specialty coffee roasters

How could it affect specialty coffee roasters?

Like most industries, the coffee sector is affected by many of the decisions made at G7 summits. Each pledge often leads to widespread changes throughout the economies of not only the participating members, but the whole world.

While a number of the decisions made at the G7 summit 2021 – such as the global minimum tax for multinationals and the move away from coal-burning power stations – won’t directly affect the majority of specialty roasters, many of the climate change pledges will.

In particular, the commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 could result in significant changes to the way roasteries operate.

A typical roaster is responsible for a number of carbon emissions, from the gas used to fire the machines to the transport used for delivery. Recent studies indicate that roasting contributes around 15% of the overall carbon footprint of coffee, equal to approximately 1.2 pounds in carbon emissions.

It could soon become mandatory for coffee businesses to take active measures to reduce their emissions.

These emissions have the potential to damage the environment by contributing to global warming, when carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight, resulting in higher global temperatures.

In order to reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere – and therefore protect the environment – the G7 leaders have set a target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Naturally, this will involve the participation of all businesses, including roasters.

While there aren’t currently any specific laws in place as a result of the agreement, it could soon become mandatory for coffee businesses to take active measures to reduce their emissions.

What’s more, the fact that it has been discussed at an event as important as a G7 summit could lead to mounting pressure from consumers, who will expect the brands they buy from to make concerted efforts to limit their impact on the environment.

specialty coffee roaster
There are a number of ways in which specialty roasters can work towards becoming carbon neutral

What can coffee businesses do to adapt?

For specialty coffee roasters, there are a number of ways in which they can work towards net-zero emissions. While it may take some time, particularly for larger roasters, it will undoubtedly help the environment, as well as convincing customers to continue buying their coffee.

Zero-emission roasters

Zero-emission roasting is based on the development of new, energy-efficient roasters with single-burners. It can reduce the carbon footprint of each roasting cycle by up to 90%.

California-based Bellwether Coffee is at the forefront of zero-emission roasting. Their sustainable roasters use electric heating elements that surround the roasting drums to achieve the same roast quality without using gas.

With no smoke, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or particulate exhaust, it requires no additional ventilation or afterburner, thus considerably reducing the amount of energy required to power it.

Sustainable packaging

A paper on how improved management and product use in packaging can reduce carbon emissions found that switching to sustainable packaging materials could reduce emissions by 10%. It also found that replacing single-use packaging with reusable packaging can reduce emissions by more than a third.

While there used to be some scepticism around the effectiveness of sustainable materials at preserving coffee freshness, the packaging industry has advanced considerably in recent years. High-barrier compostable and recyclable pouches have become increasingly widespread, from kraft paper and rice paper, to PLA and LDPE.

Alternative delivery methods

As online orders and subscriptions grow in popularity, the transport of coffee from the roastery to customers’ homes has become an important part of running a successful business. However, each journey emits CO2 into the atmosphere, which contributes to a roaster’s carbon footprint.

By switching to more sustainable delivery methods, roasters can reduce their carbon emissions significantly. For example, Porch Culture Roasters in Texas deliver their coffee to customers within a certain radius by bicycle, while Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters in Scotland have used a fully electric car for all of their local deliveries since 2018.

sustainable coffee packaging
The quality of sustainable coffee packaging has improved considerably in recent years

Although the pledges made at the G7 summit 2021 are yet to take effect, it’s important for specialty roasters to get ahead as much as they can by making changes to their operations.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of fully sustainable coffee packaging, including certified recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable options. Our low-VOC water-based inks and recyclable degassing valves ensure that every aspect of the packaging is eco-friendly, helping specialty roasters work towards becoming carbon neutral.

For more information on our sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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