BeanScene Magazine

SCA’s Kim Elena Ionescu puts sustainability in spotlight at Knowledge Talks

From the March 2017 issue.

Toby’s Estate’s Knowledge Talks tour featuring Specialty Coffee Association’s Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) Kim Elena Ionescu wrapped up last week leaving audiences with a new perspective on sustainability within the coffee sector.

Through her presentations across Sydney, Brisbane and Melbouren from 6 – 8 March, Kim led discussions on the best practices and opportunities for getting involved in making coffee better globally.

“In each city I visited I received a great energy from the audience. Everyone was engaged in the discussion and I’ve learned a lot about the different concerns, priorities and motivations Australian coffee businesses and baristas have towards sustainability,” Kim says.

In her presentation, titled "Sustainability, Risk, and Regeneration: How Can We Make Coffee Better?” Kim spoke about her current work at the SCA and why innovation and sustainability are inextricable at every stage of the value chain, and well as look at how Australia fits into the global picture of sustainability.

“The more we can work together the better. There’s an opportunity to pursue sustainability at all stages and levels, but it’s important to recognise that most of the threats right now to the future of coffee are being felt most acutely by the producers,” Kim says. "I want to reach people where they are and teach them about sustainability in the context of their businesses, but at the same time look at how we can draw parallels at farm level and address concerns on a more macro level."

Most notably, Kim says perceptions around the word “sustainability” need to shift.

“Sustainability means something different to everyone – environmental, social and in rare cases, economic issues,” she says. “Personally, I don’t see sustainability as a big scary word. It’s very broad and it can be very confronting, but I do resist the idea a little that we need to define it. For me, it’s about risk and innovation. It offers so much opportunity yet in many ways it’s underappreciated,” Kim says. “I don’t think it’s ever really portrayed as ‘exciting’, and that to me sells sustainability short. We haven’t explored it to its full potential.”

Kim left audiences inspired and invigorated at new ways to take action, and said there was no reason why Australia can’t have its own CSO to help lead strategies to address sustainable challenges facing our industry.

All proceeds from the ticket sales of Knowledge Talks was donated to the Las Nubes Daycare and Afterschool-Learning Centre. The centre supports the education of over 40 children aged between three and 12 in the coffee community of Acatenango.

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