Coffee Sustainability Program

Knowledge for Every Stage of Your Career

Sustainability must be embraced by all actors in the value chain if the specialty coffee industry is to survive. The Coffee Sustainability Program is designed to explore what “sustainability” means and the challenges of acting sustainably across the coffee value chain through three stages of learning (Foundation, Intermediate, and Professional). Through the program, students can expect to build skills that include: the ability to articulate broad sustainability challenges across the value chain, lead others in discussion and practice of these issues and ultimately identify, develop, and carry out and assess a sustainability effort that fits within their own organization.

Stay tuned! Sustainability courses will be available in the coming weeks.

Foundation Level

At the Foundation Level, students will be exposed to sustainability terminology, a brief history of sustainability projects in coffee, and key sustainability challenges across the value chain. They will begin to understand the trade-offs and complexities of different approaches and access some of the tools that exist to address a variety of challenges. Designed for people at all points in the coffee chain, participants will leave the course understanding why sustainability is a different kind of challenge than others in coffee, but not an impossible one, and will have ideas on where they might start in their own organizations.

  • Articulate broad sustainability challenges at different points in the value chain

  • Discuss different possibilities for future sustainable practices at various levels of the coffee chain

  • Explain trade-offs of different sustainability projects

Intermediate Level

The Intermediate course builds on concepts introduced in Foundation to develop student ability to analyze and interpret a variety of different types of sustainability projects. After completing the Intermediate level, students be able to articulate different ideas about defining and measuring sustainability and sustainable development in order to better understand and assess the major issues facing specialty coffee.

  • Gain exposure to different sustainability approaches in the value chain, with a firm grasp of the defining issues in at least two parts of the chain most relevant to the student

  • Have a more detailed understanding of collective action and what platforms exist to collaborate, leverage resources, and share results

  • Understand and be able to articulate how progress on sustainability initiatives is measured and defined in a variety of contexts

  • Be able to assess case studies and sustainability research 

  • Develop a plan to move forward on a sustainability initiative within their own organization

Professional Level

The Professional level offers an intensive, practical experience in which students design, carry out, and assess their own sustainability projects in accordance with their organization’s goals and capabilities. The Professional class is designed to be taught over a period of several months to a year, with in-class sessions (online or in person) supporting students as they carry out their projects. The Sustainability Professional makes educated choices about trade-offs and costs and is a leader in Sustainability programming within the SCA and the specialty industry at large.

  • Identify measures of accountability and progress on a particular sustainability issue

  • Engage extensively with debates, policies, and practices of sustainability across multiple points of the value chain

  • Lead others in discussion and practice of these issues, and serve as a mentor for future students

  • Identify, develop, carry out, and assess a sustainability effort that fits within their organization’s capabilities, is measurable and trackable, has structures of accountability, and is critically reflexive about its successes and failures

  • Serve as an advocate for intelligent sustainability programming across the coffee industry by participating as a mentor to future students


Your AST will usually charge a fee for the educational courses you take leading up to the qualification. The course fee will usually reflect its length, skills level, and the costs involved in running it, and is at the discretion of the AST. View the course calendar to find course details and contact information for ASTs near you.

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