Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program : a triple-win collaboration between Nespresso and the Rainforest Alliance 2013


A unique approach in the coffee sector

Hands full of coffee

Having launched the groundbreaking Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program together in 2003, the long-standing collaboration between Nespresso and the NGO, the Rainforest Alliance is approaching its ten-year anniversary. Today, the AAA Program supports 45,000 farmers to grow the highest quality coffee more sustainably, enabling Nespresso Club Members around the world to enjoy Sustainable Quality™ coffee. With its triple focus on quality, sustainability and productivity, the AAA Program is unique within the coffee industry.

A unique combination of expertise to create AAA Sustainable Quality™ 

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program was developed to meet a goal shared by Nespresso and the Rainforest Alliance: to create a sustainable supply of the highest quality coffee, while improving the situation for coffee farmers and their communities. Sustainable quality is the resulting central element to this collaboration.

The Rainforest Alliance brought experience and knowledge in developing sustainable farming practices to the unique collaboration. Nespresso provided expertise in selecting and growing the highest quality coffee. Only 1-2% of all the coffee in the world meets the quality, taste and aroma profile required for Nespresso Grand Cru coffees.

Benefits for farmers, for Nespresso and for Nespresso consumers

Chris Wille, the chief of the Sustainable Agriculture Program at the Rainforest Alliance, has over 20 years experience working with coffee farmers in Central and South America. Speaking of the collaboration of Nespresso and his organisation for the AAA Program, he says, “It’s unique. There’s nothing else like it in the industry. We’re working together to help farmers not only meet sustainability requirements, but also improve their coffee quality and productivity. The benefits of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program extend beyond farmers. It’s a triple win situation. Not only is the AAA Program a win for farmers and their families, but for Nespresso and Nespresso consumers too.”

"The Nespresso AAA Program is unique in the coffee industry. We’re working together to help farmers not only meet sustainability requirements, but also improve their coffee quality and productivity"

Chris Wille, Chief of Sustainable Agriculture Program,The Rainforest Alliance

Supporting 45,000 farmers

Real and significant progress has been made in meeting the goals shared by Nespresso and Rainforest Alliance within the AAA Program. At the end of 2011, Nespresso sourced more than 60% of its coffee from around 45,000 farmers who belong to the AAA Program. Since 2008, the number of farmers taking part in the AAA Program and the number of coffee bags that Nespresso sourced through this unique program have more than doubled.

“We find it easier and easier to get coffee farmers interested in the AAA Program, because they see the positive changes on their neighbours’ farm: healthier soil, higher productivity, better quality and price, a long term relationship with a premium buyer. Over time, their income improves and farm economics are better managed,” says Chris Wille.

Developing a new standard for sustainable quality

“We first met with Nespresso in 2002” says Tensie Whelan, the president of the international organisation whose mission is to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behaviour. Since its formation in 1987, the Rainforest Alliance has developed world-class expertise in bringing social and environmental standards into forestry and farming, including bananas, cocoa, tea and coffee.

Having been developed in collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance, the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program shares many of the same principles as other responsible sourcing programs. However, in addition to rigorous social and environmental standards, it adds both a quality and a productivity dimension.

The sustainability requirements of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program are based on social and environmental standards developed by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of nonprofit conversation that includes the Rainforest Alliance. Going beyond the adoption of social and environmental standards, the AAA Program offers farmers training, technical assistance and in some cases direct investments to improve their performance on all three dimensions of the program: quality, sustainability and productivity. Farmers see their yields increase and earn top prices for their best quality beans.

A major commitment to sustainability

The collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance and the development of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program represented a major commitment from Nespresso to reinvent its business and value chain to guarantee a sustainable supply of the highest quality coffees while protecting the livelihoods of the farmers that grow them. “I believe that 20 years from now, we will say that Nespresso was ahead of its time in learning how to transform itself to become the sustainable quality orientated, innovative company of the 21st century,” concludes Tensie Whelan.

The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) is a coalition of nonprofit conservation organisations that counts the Rainforest Alliance among its members. The SAN standard includes extensive social and environmental criteria, which promote the best sustainable agriculture practices across areas such as soil and waste management, protection of biodiversity, health and safety, use of agrochemicals and labour standards. For example, there is an entire module focused on “Fair treatment and Good Working Conditions for Workers,” which covers the fundamental aspects of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions.