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Marco Lavazza on the industry’s biggest threat

Fourth generation Lavazza family member Marco Lavazza says greater efforts are needed to protect coffee crops from the impact of climate change as conditions continue to worsen in producing regions.

Talking exclusively with Global Coffee Report at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, of which Lavazza has been a coffee ambassador for the past five years, Marco said more attention on saving crops and availability of land is paramount to sustaining the future of the coffee industry.

“Not everybody understands how much the weather is becoming an issue for our farmers, but I think it’s our biggest problem. We have to deal with this and play our role," Lavazza said.

“[The weather] is not in our hands. We have to solve the problems that someone else is creating. It’s important to no longer speculate on agricultural crops and raw materials - it’s a waste of money that’s creating more problems. Rather, we need to be proactive in our decisions.

“Being a family company gives us the freedom to choose what we do, have a long-term vision and the solidity to face whatever challenges the world gives us, from climatic to pricing, even trade problems between one country and another.” 

In September 2019, Lavazza was one of many large international coffee roasters to sign the International Coffee Organization’s historic declaration on the economic sustainability of coffee. The international pledge commits companies to address growing the sustainability of global coffee production.

“For us, it’s certainly not good when the price of coffee is too low,” Lavazza said. “We know perfectly that famers need to see a future in what they do. We have always celebrated the farmers we work with, idolising them as heroes of our industry. But more than ever we need them to show the world that being a farmer is a good career for their children, that it’s good work they are willing to continue. If everyone moves to the big cities, we all have a problem, not just coffee, but for everybody in agricultural industries.”

In 2004, the Lavazza Foundation was established to promote and implement economic, social and environmental sustainability projects to support coffee producing communities around the world.
Projects have the primary objective of helping coffee producers to improve the yield and quality of their products, through agricultural best practices training, and encouraging the development of their entrepreneurial skills.

“We always try to understand the best way to help our farmers, but in the way they want, which is very important for us,” Lavazza said. “We don't have an imperialistic way of doing business, so we go to origin and try to understand what’s going on and how we can help the farmers cultivate a better product to be sold at a higher price, using less water and less chemicals. We buy at the highest price, which is not an issue, but in the end we get a better product, so for us, its a win-win.”

In 2019, Lavazza was ranked the top food and beverage brand on the Reputation Institute’s Corporate Responsibility report and the ninth company globally against several other large Italian companies, an honour Marco says was completely unexpected and humbling.

“It is no longer an option for companies to go without a social and economic sustainability plan. If you don’t have one, you’re out of [touch with] the market,” Lavazza said. “Our great-grandfather started ours, so for us, it has always been a normal part of business, but for others, it has become more important to have because consumers are asking for it.”

More than ever, Lavazza says consumers don’t just buy off primary instinct to satisfy a need, but once they understand and are in line with the values of the product they’re buying.

“People do their homework before. They are conscious buyers. They know if the product involves green washing. They know if it’s sustainably sourced or if it's real. You have to be very careful of what you state and we know that we’re good at this,” he said.

“Credibility is everything. It’s taken us 40 years to arrive at where we are now, and it can take five minutes to ruin everything, so we have to be very careful with what we do. We have to understand how to satisfy the end consumer, which is easy to say but not easy to do.”

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