Nespresso’s coffee sourcing makes up the first significant non-oil export from South Sudan, but a lack of transparency creates challenges

Luxury coffee brand Nespresso has big sustainability challenges, which no amount of smooth talking from George Clooney can charm away. Its single-use pods have come under fire from environmentalists, and were last year banned by the city of Hamburg. Although the pods use an energy-intensive and polluting resource, aluminium, they are not easily recycled, so much of the aluminium ends up in landfill.

Although the company runs its own take-back scheme in most of its markets to recycle pods, it refuses to reveal actual recycling rates, a lack of transparency that casts a shadow over its Positive Cup sustainability plan, a 38-point list of commitments to create value for its suppliers, consumers and society, as well as for its shareholders.

Nespresso’s most compelling sustainability story is in its coffee sourcing, an example of a luxury premium being used to deliver a better product to consumers and a better deal for farmers. This is particularly evident in war-torn Sudan, where Nespresso looked when it wanted to launch a new coffee. South Sudan only gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 and it has been locked in conflict ever since. “The country is reeling from civil war. There was...

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coffee  South Sudan  supply chains  Nespresso 

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