How does the GHG Protocol affect coffee roasters?

Tori Taylor
January 5, 2022
coffee roasting

The world has known about the effect of greenhouse gases on the earth’s atmosphere for decades.

However, when scientists first documented the phenomenon in the 1850s, few people recognised how negatively it would impact the planet some 170 years later. 

Even though 2020 was accompanied by a record drop in emissions because of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 levels effectively bounced back.

We now know that if left uncurbed, our reliance on fossil fuels could increase carbon emissions to the point that earth becomes inhospitable.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (or GHG Protocol) was created to provide guidance and tools to businesses wanting to manage their emissions. Read on to find out what it is, why roasters should care about it, and how they can benefit from using it.

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greenhouse gas protocol

What is the GHG Protocol?

For some industries, such as airlines, tracking fuel consumption and emissions is clear cut. However, in the specialty coffee industry, the supply chain is long and complex, making emissions management challenging for smaller businesses in the industry.

The GHG Protocol was established as a joint effort between the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The protocol offers comprehensive global standardised frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions. This includes private and public sector operations, value chains, and mitigation actions.

These standards help businesses create an accurate emissions inventory for more consistent and transparent reporting and reduction efforts. 

The policy is neutral and doesn’t mandate reporting. Furthermore, it doesn’t outline how businesses should undergo the process. It can, however, be used in conjunction with other programs or standards concerning emissions or emissions reporting. 

Around 2001, international governments started to realise the need for a reduction in global emissions to halt global climate change.

Finally, in 2015, dozens of participating countries signed the Paris Agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, committing to do what they can to halt the damage.

coffee roasting

How does the GHG Protocol’s Product Standard impact roasters?

According to research submitted to the Corporate Responsibility Research Conference, global warming could reduce the world’s economy by 20% if left unchecked.

Large companies have been quick to take action as the public has recognised the impact their purchasing decisions have on the planet.

This doesn’t address SMEs, which make up most private sector businesses in industrialised economies. The paper reveals that many SMEs feel ignorant of their business’s environmental impact or lack the tools and resources to tackle it.

Implementing environmental reform could improve their competitiveness, product quality, material efficiency, and staff commitment. It can also result in better community relations, insurance premiums, access to finance, and media coverage.

The GHG Protocol’s Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard is relevant to small-to-medium roasters that haven’t formally measured their emissions before.

In contrast, large roasters or those that are part of bigger corporations might have their own corporate level standards, reporting protocols, and emissions reduction activities in place.

This standard can help roasters determine the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their coffee offerings. This data could potentially reach all the way back to green coffee production and transportation. Likewise, it could reach forward to include the eventual disposal of packaging.

According to the documentation, using this standard can help businesses like roasters by “enabling better product design, increasing efficiencies, reducing costs, and removing risks”.

SMEs can benefit by being able to “concentrate their resources more effectively and gain competitive advantage, while meeting the demands of retailers and customers.”

Furthermore, making use of this standard can help businesses increase their credibility with regards to consumer demand for details on their product’s sustainability. It can also help shape their communication efforts (which often includes branding and packaging) and help hold their suppliers accountable.

roasted coffee beans

Using GHG Standards for accurate reporting & emissions reductions

The GHG Protocol offers roasters a wide range of tools, training opportunities and databases to help them determine their emissions and take steps to reduce it. Here are a few ways roasters can use these resources to their benefit:

Determine your supplier emissions

Ideally, your direct coffee supplier or intermediary agent should know about your coffee’s origins and under what circumstances it was produced. They should also know how it was processed, packaged and transported to you. 

If you work with smaller producers, giving them an idea of their emissions could make them more attractive to other buyers. It could also help them lower production costs and improve their coffee quality, helping them secure better prices for it.

Determine your production emissions

A common source of emissions is your roastery’s electricity usage. This comprises everything from the lights in your building to how much energy your roasting machine uses. 

Based on your results, you could switch to solar power or more energy-efficient equipment and lighting. You could also find better ways to dispose of your coffee chaff or roasting errors than incineration or landfill disposal, respectively. 

Even if you can’t practically implement all these changes, having a concrete plan can help you apply for financing or secure investors.

Determine your post-production emissions 

Your coffee’s packaging and how consumers interact with it can impact your emissions. You can improve this by choosing packaging that extends your coffee’s lifespan while being compostable or recyclable. 

You can also use your packaging to communicate how customers can dispose of their used coffee grounds or empty packaging to keep it from ending up in landfills. Remember that any waste disposed of this way will produce emissions, as it either decomposes or ends up incinerated.

sustainable coffee bags

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions has become a priority for many coffee roasters around the world. It is important not only for the future of the specialty coffee sector, but for the planet as a whole.

At MTPak Coffee, we can help you cut your carbon footprint with our selection of sustainable packaging solutions. We have a range of recyclable and compostable bags, including kraft paper, LDPE, and PLA, while our UV printing methods are low emission.

We also use low-VOC water-based inks and recyclable degassing valves for a completely sustainable bag.

For information on our sustainable coffee bags, contact our team.

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