Gender Equity Principles for the coffee sector

The Gender Equity Principles (GEPs) are seven data-driven statements that organizations and companies may utilize to highlight their commitment to gender equity in the coffee value chain. They create a common language, behavior guidance andpre-competitive approach to gender equity across the sector while simultaneously filling a gap left by certification systems. This informs multi-stakeholder initiatives seeking to increase industry coordination.

The GEPs were developed by a group of roasters, traders, development practitioners and gender experts in consultation with researchers, coffee producers and industry actors-- including members of ACDI/VOCA, the CQI Partnership for Gender Equity, the International Trade Centre, the International Women's Coffee Alliance and the Specialty Coffee Association of America-- and build on other recommendations for increasing gender equity, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Principles for Responsible Agriculture and Investments.

Becoming a signatory to the Gender Equity Principles is not an end in itself; it is a point of entry for industry actors to recognize the importance of gender equity. It is a commitment to consciously examine, take action, and engage with the the impact of gender equity at all stages of the coffee value chain. It is a promise to change behaviors in the coffee landscape to improve gender relations, participate in the collaborative efforts of the industry to promote gender equity, and acknowledge the equally important role men and women play in all aspects of the coffee industry.

Industry stakeholders across the sector are invited to join this important effort.


Guiding Principles


Gender Equity Principles for the Coffee Sector

Why were the Principles developed?

There is general consensus on the importance of gender equity and women’s empowerment in the coffee value chain. It is good business, it is good for economic development and it is the right thing to do. The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals have reinforced this by putting women’s empowerment at the center of sustainable development. The coffee industry itself identified the need for a set of Principles to translate this consensus to action as part of the Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE) research in 2014 and 2015. The Way Forward report coming out of PGE recommended “a list of gender equity principles in coffee to unite and galvanize the industry”. This recommendation reflects the industry’s readiness to move from raising awareness of the importance of empowering women into developing a shared, pre-competitive approach to systematically support women’s empowerment by modifying practices in management, procurement and other areas.  In addition, the Principles cover a gap that certification and verification systems do not when it comes to addressing gender equity in agriculture commodities.

What is the purpose of the Principles?

The Principles create a common language on gender equity and women’s empowerment adapted to the coffee sector that will guide the behavior of actors across the coffee industry: from producer organizations, to traders, to roasters, to NGOs and development organizations, to service providers and others. Signing on to the Principles is not an end in itself, but rather a point of entry for each organization to measure and share data on its current impact on women. The Principles are a call to individuals and organizations to adapt their practices – and practices within their supply chains and networks – to further the empowerment of women. The Principles offer a set of measurable indicators as a basis for data collection that will allow signatories and the industry at large to better understand the roles of women and how these roles change over time. Finally, the common language set forth by the Principles will inform the multi-stakeholder initiatives seeking to increase industry coordination, including Vision 20/20, the Global Coffee Platform and the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.

Is there a precedent for the Principles? Are they redundant?

In compiling the Principles and adapting them for the coffee sector, the steering committee has examined work and research conducted on women’s empowerment from organizations globally, including the United Nations. The Gender Equity Principles distill global best practices into actionable steps and indicators for the coffee industry to inspire action and drive change. The Principles build on and are aligned with other initiatives for gender equity such as the women’s empowerment principles, FAO’s Principles for Responsible Agriculture and Investments, and the findings of “The Way Forward” study of the Partnership for Gender Equity among others. Coffee has been a leader in valuing and promoting sustainability, and the industry has the potential to lead in gender equity, as well.

What does it mean to sign on to these principles?

By signing these Principles, the person/company/organization acknowledges the equally important role that men and women play in all aspects of the coffee industry and are committed to change the landscape and behaviors in their environment to improve gender equality for individuals and coffee outcomes for the industry as a whole.

Becoming a signatory to the Principles is a commitment to consciously examine, take action, and measure the impact of one’s organization on gender equity at all stages of the coffee value chain, from agricultural production to the experience of end consumers, and to participate in the collaborative efforts of the industry to promote gender equity.

Does this mean additional reporting and bureaucracy? How will the Principles be governed?

The Principles are designed to inform efforts already under way to improve industry coordination, not to duplicate them. The objective is to make reporting on the Principles an integral part of performance measurement at the organization level and to incorporate them into platforms such as the Sustainable Coffee Challenge and the Global Coffee Platform. At a future point, the Principles will draw from these sources to assess global commitments and progress.

Who is involved and what are the next steps?

The Principles were not developed in a vacuum. A group of roasters, traders, development practitioners and gender experts have worked together to create this draft version of the Principles and bring it to the industry for comments. The next step is to get input to make the Principles at once actionable, easy to communicate, ambitious, and transformative. In the first round of feedback slated for Q3 of 2016, we will reach out to small groups of industry actors representing coffee producers as well as consumers to get their honest assessment and advice on how to make these principles truly industry-ready. Following that, we will open the Principles to global comment and seek commitments and signatories. As momentum builds, we will continue to work with stakeholders and groups to incorporate the Principles into global reporting frameworks.

Key Terms Defined

Gender empowerment and women’s empowerment do not aim to promote one sex over another. Rather, gender empowerment is the ability for men and women to participate equally in society at the household, community, and national levels, especially regarding economic and political decision-making. Women’s empowerment narrows the focus when there is a gap in equality in order that women have the ability to realize their full potential to participate in society as decision-makers. Both gender empowerment and women’s empowerment work to create a balanced society. Gender equity deals with justice and fairness and means that women and men have the same opportunity, taking into account their respective needs and historic disadvantages. Gender equality means and that men and women are equally valued and free from stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination so that opportunities do not depend on being a man or a woman. Gender equity can be a pathway to gender equality