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Getting the World of Coffee energized about insetting

At Acorn, one of our recent focus areas has been insetting: this unique solution decarbonizes value chains with the support of those who are part of it. With coffee being a commodity that many of our smallholders cultivate, it only made sense for an Acorn delegation to attend the 2023 edition of the World of Coffee conference in Athens. We spoke to Acorn’s strategy & research lead Emma van de Ven about her experiences.

Exploring a World of Coffee 

 Traveling to a new European city every June, the World of Coffee is a trade show by and for anyone with a connection to coffee: from farmers to baristas, and from tasting experts to coffee roasters. You’ll find suited-up representatives of big coffee brands, those responsible for the import and export of coffee, and people showing off their brewing skills in a competitive (if, for outsiders, incomprehensible) setting. With such a varied audience, the atmosphere was decidedly low-key and amicable — although most of the attendees were highly caffeinated.

Emma, a dedicated decaf devotee, half-jokingly comments: “Traditionally, decaf coffee is brewed from the worst beans. So, I made sure to really advocate for decaf at all of the stands.” Of course, that wasn’t the only advocating to be done. Together with our senior business development manager Isabel van Bemmelen and account manager Paola López Vargas, Emma made sure to keep insetting (and Acorn) on everyone’s lips as they were sipping their single-origin espressos.

Isabel and Paola taste coffee at the World of Coffee conference

Who’s who when it comes to your brew 

With many coffee roasters and farmers in attendance, we saw a great opportunity to discuss decarbonization. Much like other value chains (such as beef and palm oil), coffee is often cultivated on deforested land. That comes with the responsibility to compensate for the trees that were cut down, by planting new ones — something the entire value chain can and should contribute to via insetting. 

Of course, the fact that every part of the value chain was represented at the conference made this conversation a lot easier. Isabel, Acorn’s insetting expert, made sure plenty of hands were shaken and deals were made — especially after exposition hours, when the late-night networking kicked off. 

“It was a fun experience,” Emma says, “especially because the coffee industry is so different from the carbon market — insofar as you can talk about a carbon market, of course. There was plenty of enthusiasm among the companies present, and they were both open to our proposition and expressed a need for solutions just like ours. Especially while so much is still unclear when it comes to carbon-related protocols.” 

A league of their own 

As some of the very few representatives of a financial institution, Emma, Isabel, and Paola found themselves standing out quite a bit at the conference — but more than that, they found that there weren't many solutions presented for climate change mitigation and adaptation in the coffee chain. “Everyone there was so concerned with the new EU deforestation legislation and how to chart supply chain traceability. Even for these single-origin parties, it’s really complicated,” Emma explains. “That's why it’s unfortunate that there weren’t more parties sharing their sustainable solutions.”

With next year’s World of Coffee taking place in Copenhagen, we can only hope that by then, insetting isn’t just a novel proposition anymore, but the norm.

Isabel, Paola, and Emma at the World of Coffee conference

Isabel, Paola, and Emma at the World of Coffee conference

Meet our people

Emma van de VenStrategy & Research LeadLinkedIn
Isabel van BemmelenSr. Business Development ManagerLinkedIn
Paola López VargasPartnership Lead South America, Centro America & the CaribbeanLinkedIn
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