Consumer demand is today driving leading brands to provide greater transparency on the origin of their products and how they are made. How merchants such as ECOM and its farmer suppliers are addressing issues related to soil management, fertilizer and crop protection management, protection of the natural environment and labor practices is now key to brand positioning and pricing.

To provide traceability and assurance of good farming practices, leading brands are increasingly demanding certified products, whether through their own proprietary standards such as Starbucks’ Coffee & Farmer Equity (CAFE) Practices or via independent (NGO) third-party standards such as the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified, and 4C. An estimated 1,100 agronomists are now employed and providing services to farmers around the world.

 ECOM Coffee Sales 2011

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ECOM’s coffee division recognized this trend as an opportunity in the early 2000’s, and in the past decade has developed formidable capacities to support farmers to achieve certification and to improve farm productivity and product quality. SMS divisions now provide expanded inventories of farming and household supplies directly to communities as part of their extension services.

The impact and influence of this trend at ECOM is underlined by the numbers:

  • Certified coffee leader
  • Sales of certified coffee up 4% in 2011 (7th consecutive year of growth)
  • Certified coffee 14 % of total coffee sales (13% 2010, 15% 2009)
  • Market share 18% of sustainable market
  • An estimated >50% of all coffee purchasing “touched” by certification (that is, purchased from certified suppliers)

ECOM Coffee Market Share of each Sustainable Certificate 2011

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Despite continued growth in competition within the Sustainable area, ECOM has 15-20% market share od the mainstream sustainable certified/verified volumes.

In cocoa, ECOM leads the field in terms of integrity, impact of programs, and increased volumes of sustainable and certified cocoa from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Ecuador, Columbia and Peru, giving ECOM the largest origin ”footprint” in covering the most countries for cocoa production. By the end of 2018, over 540,000 farmers were under ECOM programs in Africa alone. As a leading company in African cocoa, ECOM’s SMS Division provides technology and services to farms, while convincing chocolatemaker clients of sustainable impact delivery.

In cotton, ECOM joined with leading cotton textile and fashion brands, manufacturers, NGOs and farmer organizations to form the Better Cotton Initiative in 2009. Since then, ECOM has served on its governing council and executive board and until the end of 2011 was the only participating cotton merchant. ECOM traded the first bales of Better Cotton from Mali, Brazil and India in 2011. While there is a long way to go before sustainable cotton is widely available and tradable, the Better Cotton Initiative has served as a platform to enable new relationships by bringing together the participants of a traditionally long and opaque supply chain.