How Behavior Analysis Can Help to Develop a Sustainable Coffee Economy


By: Beth Garrison, CEO

The International Coffee Organization published an article on their site ( providing information on their call to action by the United Nations to help support the creation of a sustainable coffee economy.  Part of their call to action is to create an awareness of the needs of this industry, as well as to promote development in the countries that produce and rely on coffee as its main commodity.

Several issues arise in the production of coffee.  The first, is environmental.  During the washing process of the seeds, water pollution may occur, disrupting the water sources for thousands of people.  Coffee is a plant that can also be exposed to many pests.  It takes five years to grow a coffee plant, and exposure to pests, can be devastating to a crop and the farmer's livelihood, so coffee farmers will often use pesticides in the production of coffee.  In both of these, pollution and contamination may occur for the environment and the coffee.  Good hygiene practices also must be completed to make sure the coffee beans are not exposed to additional contaminants, often in countries where access to supplies to do this is not freely available.

The other issue effecting coffee, which we discussed in the blog, "Why Climate Change is Not a Myth," is that climate change is forcing coffee production to be moved to more favorable conditions, thus putting farmers out of work, or forcing them to migrate and work in areas where coffee has not been produced before.  When this happens, there is a population of people that are not familiar with the coffee growing process, and thus, a cultural shift must occur.

So how can behavior analysis help with this?  Organizational Behavior Management being a subfield of Applied Behavior Analysis focusing on improving group and individual performance and safety in the workplace, can support these issues.  While reading the recent Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, a special issue focusing on "Behavioral Science Approaches to Process Safety (July-December 2017)," I realized that many of these issues can be addressed with behavior based safety procedures.  For the geographical shift of coffee farming to new areas, we can look to advances in training and feedback measures to teach the population in these areas how to farm (if they choose), and potentially look to developing pro-social relationships between the farmers who migrate to these new areas, and those who already live there.

These are just surface ways behavior analysis can help.  I hope to focus on this more in upcoming blogs.



Journal of Organizational Behavior Management,. (2017).Volume 37, Number 3-4

Developing a sustainable coffee economy. (July 25 2018). Retrieved from: