We wanted to create the UK’s most sustainable cup of coffee, so through supporting the businesses and communities of our suppliers, we’re on an exciting journey to do just that. By leveraging the research power of The University of Sheffield, coupled with the purchasing power of our catering operations, we’ve been able to minimise our supply chain and make a real difference to people’s lives.

In 2010, the University began working with local dairy farm Our Cow Molly, the last in Sheffield which produces and bottles its own milk. This working agreement allowed the University to receive the most sustainable milk of any Higher Education institution in the country – travelling just two miles from cow to coffee – and helped the dairy achieve a loan to dramatically expand. Our partnership has created a framework, subsequently adopted by national organisations looking at how public sector procurement can stimulate local businesses and communities through closed loop systems.

In 2017, we started working with Roastology. Roastology source directly from the CENCOIC co-operative, in the Cauca region of Colombia. Our project has now linked CENCOIC with researchers from the departments of Social Science and Animal and Plant Sciences to leverage the research power of the University to improve the wellbeing of our suppliers.

A fact finding mission funded by Roastology was undertaken in May 2018 where representatives from the University visited the Cauca region and met with partner universities and the co-operative to gain a deeper understanding of the supply chain. By speaking to our producers they were able to hear and understand problems and issues they faced first hand.

Peter Anstess from The University of Sheffield and Bryan Unkles, Managing Director of Roastology visit the CENCOIC cooperative in Colombia

Columbia Sheffield CENCOIC visit

Since the trip, the department of Animal and Plant Sciences has been working with the CENCOIC co-operative to help improve productivity and wellbeing for the indigenous farmers. Problem areas identified by the co-operative include; leaf rust affecting coffee plants, and smoke generated by indoor wood fires which is hazardous to health. APS are examining harvesting natural gasses generated by decomposing coffee bean husks to create a sustainable source of cooking gas. APS will also conduct biodiversity research in the Cauca region (Colombia being the second-highest biodiverse country in the world), which has historically been under-researched due to decades of conflict.

The faculty of Social Science, in partnership with The Pontifical Xavierian University in Colombia are conducting participatory action research on three municipalities, one of which is Caldono in the Cauca region where CENCOIC is based, which looks at strategies for reconciliation in the Colombian peace process.

Currently one social scientist from the department of Geography is working on both projects to bridge the findings. Researchers from both departments, along with commercial services, will be looking to produce a joint-impact report highlighting the findings of the research conducted.

Sheffield Roastology coffee

The University of Sheffield and members of CENCOIC visit the Roastology roastery in Sheffield