Avance: The New Sustainability Conference From SCA

SCA launches Avance—a new sustainability conference aimed at tackling important issues at origin and including farmers into the fold by presenting information in multiple languages.


Photos courtesy of SCA

Last week, SCA announced the launch of Avance, a sustainability conference that is the first of its kind in multiple ways—the SCA has yet to host a conference that focuses solely on sustainability issues, and its the first to be held in a coffee-producing country. The inaugural event will be held in October in Guatemala, hosted in partnership with Anacafé and with a focus on growing issues specific to Central America.

Avance means “to advance or move forward” in Spanish (and in French), and the goal of this conference will be to spearhead innovation that includes both specialty buyers and producers. “The event arose from years of discussion within the specialty coffee industry’s sustainability community—led by a group from the Sustainability Council of the heritage SCAA—which had identified the need to include people from more coffee-producing countries and communities in our organization’s events and discussions generally, and particularly when we’re discussing subjects that reflect the lived experience of these individuals and their communities,” shares Kim Elena Ionescu,? chief sustainability officer of the SCA. Along with highlighting specific issues affecting Central American farmers, Avance will present content in both English and Spanish.

Kim emphasizes the need to have conversations in producing countries and in multiple languages in order to make content meaningful for both buyers and farmers. “When we have conversations about climate change, farm workers, and profitability at [Global] Expo and World of Coffee, we reach an audience that consists primarily of buyers, retailers, and other representatives of the consuming-country side of coffee,” she shares “Because while many more producers and producing-country representatives attend SCA’s major events in the U.S. and Europe nowadays than did, say, 10 or 15 years ago, the travel costs alone can be enormous, to say nothing of the challenge of getting a visa. With a limited population of producers, it’s difficult to avoid tokenizing the farmers in attendance, and it’s nearly impossible to expect the lessons from a case study presented in English to an audience of English speakers to find its way to a Kiswahili-speaking farmer halfway around the world.”

This first iteration of Avance will focus on themes of farm profitability, climate change, and farm workers. And while this conference is open to all members of the coffee industry with any level of knowledge, the conference will not present these ideas as an “intro to,” instead looking at the state of things now and relying on its participants to relay their needs. “Avance is intended to be both an opportunity for attendees to learn (from speakers and each other) and for the SCA to gather input from stakeholders to shape the strategy for our Sustainability Center, which is a new feature of the association since unification in January,” Kim notes.

The event, which takes place over two days, is priced at $250 for SCA members until Sept. 8. Although this price is lower than most conferences and events of its kind, Kim wants to bring the price down lower and create scholarship opportunities for baristas and farm workers. “It was important to us to keep the ticket price comparatively low, but I know that $250 is still a lot of money for a lot of stakeholders I would like to include, not limited to coffee farmers and farm workers—baristas tend to pay their own way, too, as opposed to receiving company sponsorship like a green coffee buyer might. We’re also working on a scholarship program like the one at Re:co, pending sponsorship,” she shares.

Avance will take place Oct. 11-12 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. To register, click here.

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Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at ashley@baristamagazine.com.