Generic Criteria Food & Beverages - Ecology Question 1

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Does the brand (owner) use environmentally certified coffee and/or tea for at least XX% of its volume?

  • Dutch Question: Gebruikt het merk (bedrijf) milieu-gecertificeerde koffie en/of thee voor ten minste XX% van zijn totale productie?
  • German Question: Verarbeitet der Markenhersteller zumindest zu XX% umweltzertifizierten Kaffee und/oder Tee für das gesamte Produktionsvolumen der Marke?


This section provides background information on using certifcations for rankings. For specific instructions and examples of how to calculate the correct percentage, see Ranking Guidelines.

The coffee sector is a pioneering industry for sustainable development, as it was the first to develop a Fairtrade Certification Mark — Max Havelaar — as early as 1988. Since then, certifications have flourished in both the coffee and tea sector. Besides Fairtrade, leading certifications are Utz and Rainforest Alliance, as well as organic certifications, all of which impose often extensive environmental standards on the production of coffee and tea. For example, Utz, which is currently merging with Rainforest Alliance, addresses numerous environmental issues, ranging from waste management and deforestation to biodiversity and soil erosion. Environmental certifications are thus a reliable indicator of the environmental sustainability of coffee and tea, but there are still a few complications in rating environmental sustainability:

  • There are many certifications, each using numerous and often complex environmental standards, which calls for an authoritative assessment of how strict exactly these standards of each certification are.
  • Even if coffee or tea is certified, that does not necessarily mean that the full 100% of coffee beans or tea leaves are produced according to the standards of a certification scheme.
  • Some coffee and tea brands use multiple certifications. This raises the question how much more environment friendly, for example, Organic Fairtrade is compared to regular Fairtrade.

To address the first issue, Rank a Brand follows the authoritative recommendations of Milieu Centraal. Milieu Centraal started as an initiative of the Dutch environmental ministry, and is an independent, non-commercial scientific research institute that conducts its own research of certifications, including by means of a multi-stakeholder dialogue involving governing organizations of the certifications at hand. Their research is verified by an expert group and the process is governed by the Scientific Advice Council. As can be viewed here, Milieu Centraal evaluates certifications on a scale from 0 (“adhering to minimum legal requirements”) to 5 (“very strict demands”) on both environmental standards (“Milieu”) and labour standards (“Mens en Welzijn”), while verifying whether the certification is transparent (“Transparantie”) and strictly monitoring compliance to its standards (“Controle”).

Currently, we only accept coffee and tea certifications that are rated by Milieu Centraal. For certifications such as Nestlé’s AAA Sustainable Quality Program or Starbucks’ C.A.F.E. practices, there is still insufficient clarity about independent auditing to consider them eligible. Note that both brands can apply for certifications such as Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade, when adhering to their standards, and have indeed collaborated with both certifications. The 4C Code of Conduct is explicitly an entry-level sustainability standard and therefore also not eligible for this question. If you encounter a credible certification that is not rated by Milieu Centraal, please contact

Regarding the second issue that certification does not guarantee that 100% of coffee beans or tea leaves are certified, we use the guaranteed minimum percentages.

Finally, regarding the issue of multi-certification, we have designed a calculus to reward brands for using more than one certification (see below).

Ranking Guidelines

Calculating the correct percentage requires multiplying three different percentages:

(1) The amount of certified coffee beans, as reported by the brand itself on its website. For example, a brand may report that 50% of its coffee beans are Utz-certified.
(2) The Milieu Centraal score of the certification (see below). Utz scores 4/5 on "Milieu" (Environment), so receives an 80% score.
(3) Certification does not mean coffee beans are 100% certified. For example, Utz guarantees that 90% of coffee beans with the Utz-certification conforms to its criteria (see below). Therefore, this minimum 90% of coffee beans that are guaranteed to be certified has to be used in the calculation.

Thus, when a brand that reports that 50% of its coffee beans are Utz-certified, this means its coffee beans are (at least) 50% * 80% * 90% = 36% environmentally certified.

To elaborate on (2), the environmental scores in the coffee sector for Fairtrade are 3/5, for Utz 4/5, for EKO 4/5, for European Organic 4/5, for USDA (made with) Organic 4/5 and for Rainforest Alliance 5/5. For Demeter and Naturland, a score of 5/5 can be used, too, and for the Ethical Tea Partnership a score of 3/5. These ratings can be converted into percentages, such that a 3/5 rating corresponds to a 60% score, a 4/5 corresponds to a 80% score, and a 5/5 corresponds to a 100% score.

To clarify (3), (Max Havelaar) Fairtrade coffee guarantees that 100% of its coffee beans or tea leaves are certified, for Utz this is 90%, for EKO 80%, for European Organic 100%, for USDA 100% Organic, Organic and made with Organic respectively 100%, 95% and 70%, for Demeter 100%, for Naturland 100%, for the Ethical Tea Partnership 100% and for Rainforest Alliance 30%. Note that for Rainforest Alliance this 30% denotes an entry level for farmers, who in subsequent years need to increase this percentage to at least 90%. Brands are encouraged to report the actual percentage of Rainforest Alliance certified coffee or tea, which can then be used for the calculation. If no percentage is reported, 30% can be used for ranking.

In practice, multi-certification occurs frequently, and can be incorporated in the calculation as follows. One 5-scale point can be added (using a maximum of 5/5) to the certification with the highest environmental score, and the minimum percentage of certified materials of this certification has to be used in the calculation. Take EKO Fairtrade coffee. Fairtrade has an environmental score of 3/5 and EKO 4/5, which is higher. EKO’s high score of 4/5 is therefore increased by one to 5/5, and its guaranteed percentage of certified materials of 80% is used in the calculation. Thus, EKO Fairtrade coffee scores 100% (i.e., 5/5) * 80% = 80%. Similarly, coffee that is both EKO certified (scoring 4/5) and UTZ certified (also scoring 4/5) receives an environmental score of 5/5, and (because in this case both score 4/5) the highest minimum percentage of both certifications is used, in this case the 90% of UTZ, leading to a total score of 100%*90% = 90%. Note that the Ethical Tea Partnership, which can be used as a stepping stone toward stricter certifications, and certifications with environmental scores below 3/5 are not eligible for this calculation – in such cases only the certification with the higher environmental score is eligible.

Companies have to be specific about whether coffee or tea is multi-certified or not. Statements such as “50% of our coffee is EKO certified and 50% is Fairtrade certified” are vague, because it is unclear which percentage of coffee is only EKO certified, only Fairtrade certified, or both. In that case, calculate both the percentage assuming minimal and maximal multi-certification, and report the lower one. Here, minimal multi-certification means that 50% is EKO certified (scoring 4/5*80% = 64%) and 50% is Fairtrade certified (scoring 3/5*100% = 60%). As both are weighed 50%, the environmental score would be 50%*64% + 50% * 60% = 62%. This is higher than if we assume maximal multi-certification, which would mean 50% is not certified (0% score) and 50% is both EKO and Fairtrade certified (i.e., a 80% score) for a total of 40%. Thus a score of 40% should be reported here.

To give one more example, a brand reports that 25% of their coffee is Rainforest Alliance certified. As it is not stated that it is, say, 100% Rainforest Alliance certified, the 30% figure has to be used, which makes this segment of their coffee beans 25% * 100% * 30% = 7.5% certified. Furthermore, the brand states that 61% of their coffee beans are Fairtrade/EU Organic certified. As EU Organic (4/5) has a higher Milieu Centraal rating than Fairtrade (3/5), one scale point is added to the former such that it scores 5/5 or 100%. As EU Organic guarantees a 100% certification for single ingredient products, 100% can be used as a minimum percentage, making that this segment of beans scores 61% * 100% * 100% = 61%. The brand's score on environmental certification is therefore 61% + 7.5% = 68.5%. Thus:

A ‘Yes’ is applicable when

  • The brand purchases more than XX% environmentally certified coffee and/or tea as evaluated by Milieu Centraal and calculated as explained above.

A ‘No’ is applicable when

  • The brand states to not buy any environmentally certified coffee and/or tea, or does not buy enough to achieve the required percentage.

A ‘?’ is applicable when

  • The brand does not specify whether its purchased products are from environmentally certified sources.
  • The brand does not specify the certification standard of the purchased products.

Answering Guidelines

Answer ‘yes’

  • [brand] purchases [coffee and/or tea] from [UTZ Certified/ Rainforest Alliance/ Fairtrade/ etc.], such that, in total, its coffee is [_%] environmentally certified.

Answer ‘no’

  • [brand] does not purchase [coffee and/or tea] from environmentally certified sources.
  • [brand] purchases [coffee and/or tea] from [UTZ Certified/ Rainforest Alliance/ Fairtrade/ etc.], but, in total, its coffee is only [_%] environmentally certified.

Answer ‘?’

  • [brand] does not communicate whether its [coffee and/or tea] comes from an environmentally certified source on its website.
  • [brand] claims to purchase [coffee and/or tea] from environmentally certified sources but does not specify the source or certification standard.

-* You can pick the topic that applies to 'your' brand.

Note: when linking to a downloadable source document, please refer to the page(s) where to find the respective information with: (see link, page [..]).

Optional, but only for ? Answers, feel free to write at the end of a remark: Sustainability information should be easily accessible for consumers to make responsible choices.with: (see link, page [..]).