Frequently Asked Questions
1.Is the coffee certified organic? How do you ensure environmental sustainability if the farmers are still using conventional systems such as chemical pesticides or fertilizers?
Our coffee is not certified organic. We believe environmental sustainability is extremely complex. We can only ensure it after we ensure economic security and social fabric restoration (generation of trust).
2.The system seems to focus on economic and social impact. How do you support environmental conservation, biodiversity or protection with this approach?
Once we have generated sufficient trust and a stable operating system for our commodity trade (coffee), we will kick-start and support environmental initiatives together with own and third party funding. For example: creating a circular economy solution to manage the organic waste of coffee production, producing renewable energy with anaerobic digestion, and afforestation by dedicating a part of the land to native forest.
3.Wouldn’t this system be possible through fair-trade by just helping farmers save their earnings in bank accounts and creating monthly withdrawal limits? Or improving the micro-financing and local banking institutions?
No, farmers do not have bank accounts. The cultural differences between farmers and people in Europe (for example) are vast and have to be slowly mediated. This mediation is only possible if there is subsistence security and trust.
4.Transport, shipping, and packaging of global commodities are all major concerns with huge consequences for the environment. How do you incorporate climate protection while supporting trade patterns with CO2-intensive output?
Climate protection is focused on making every commodity consumed (every cup of coffee) support a form of sustainable development that supports the regulation of the environment according to the Biotic Regulation Theory of the Environment (BRET). At the beginning, trade (transport, shipping, and packaging) will have large CO2 outputs, but we work towards reducing this via conservation and restoration of ecosystems in a biodiversity hotspot: Colombia.
5.How do you ensure you can earn enough money to support one year’s harvest (i.e. does this mean you always need to pre-sell the coffee for the entire year?)
Yes. ideally pre-selling the entire harvest can make the system more stable. That is why a network of participants is important, and we invite people to Join the Weave.
6.How do you strengthen climate resilience in these communities with this system?
After achieving economic security and trust, communities will have more time and resources available to tackle complex systemic problems and become climate resilient by supporting biodiversity conservation, regenerative agroecology practices, and making steps towards a circular (bio)economy with renewable energy. The increased financial security of farmers will allow them to be better prepared in the event of unpredictable climatic events (i.e. droughts, flooding).
7.Just because the farmers earn in wages doesn’t mean they are financially better off, unless they have a support system. If the farmers are mostly illiterate, how do you know they will be financially secure with a wage system and dealing with banking institutions? Do you also offer financial advisement and help the farmers to understand banking processes and deal with their financial earnings? Do you have a mechanism to ensure they are protected from exploitation from corporate banking institutions?
The social project supported today is aimed towards reducing illiteracy in the region via supporting a passion for reading and books. This is the first step to have critical readers (as opposed to functional readers) who are able to protect themselves from exploitation from corporate banking institutions.
8.How does the coffee come from the farm to me?
It comes by ship through the Atlantic ocean.
9.Where is the coffee roasted?
The coffee is roasted in the country of origin: Colombia. It is a high-quality finished-product made entirely in Colombia.
10.How do you measure your social impact?
We developed a Theory of Change which includes several key performance indicators (KPI´s) such as: # of people/families (in)directly influenced via social projects, # km2 of the area covered by our social projects, among others.
11.What makes the coffee special?
Specialty coffee is graded under a scale from 0 to 100 points measuring its quality in terms of taste, aroma, among other. This scale was developed by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). After 80 points it is considered that the coffee is a special coffee. Beyond that, our coffee is special because it is our tool to sustain sustainability.
12.How is the social work organized?
The social work is self-organized by the social leader. We ask for reports and regular updates regarding activities, and our key performance indicators are then calculated to measure their overall social impact.
13.How do you comply with your key values?
- Trust and sense of community: by supporting communities via the empowerment of individuals (individual agreements for the collective benefit)
- Connection: We work with networks for both production and consumption.
- Respect: We stay very far away from pity, we have an eye level communication with everyone involved.
- Building knowledge: Our current social project supports a passion for reading and books and thus tackles illiteracy by empowering individuals in a critical view of their environments.
- Holistic approach: By embracing complexity and proposing solutions from the perspective of sustainability science.
14.How is Hilo different from fair trade and from cooperatives?
Our aim is to kick start sustainability and not to gather quantities (large volumes of coffee) to make monetary transactions for coffee sales (like cooperatives). That’s why we began from zero and “reinvented the wheel” to create an alternative system for trading coffee as opposed to a better price of the same system (Fairtrade).
15.What does “fair” wages mean?
It means wages agreed upon by all parties involved in a cooperation agreement. This is considerably better than the status quo (including fair trade). We think it is the basic-income necessary to start considering future cooperation for ecological sustainability.
16.How do you calculate your final sales price?
We balance to cover the entire costs of our infrastructure, and to be competitive in the specialties coffee market prices.
17.Can I get Hilo coffee in a regular shop?
Today in only one cafe in Leipzig called Uptown Coffee. We are also working on a online-store. Our first open channel is a crowdfunding campaign. If you own (or know someone who owns) a cafe, and like this alternative system, please -by all means- contact us.
18.How is Hilo different to regular coffee distribution channels?
- We want to change the classic supply chain for coffee, where many traders in between take a part of the margin but there is basically no margin left for the coffee producers. That’s why we create the Hilo system, which is a direct trade connection between the farmers and the consumers. In this way, we can invest as much as possible in farmers living wages for sustainability as well as in social projects.
- Our alternative system is based on complex systems science and uses concepts from sustainability science and a theory of change.
19.How can I involve myself in this systemic change?
You can participate! To take part we want to offer coffee as a service for sustainability: you get a percentage of the next year’s harvest by paying a monthly fee and receiving monthly coffee. By participating you switch from buying coffee to sustaining a process which strives for sustainability. You can also take part by telling a friend, inspiring others, volunteering with us (subscribing to our newsletter).
20.Who is part of Hilo in Germany and Colombia?
- Colombia: The coffee farmers, social project managers and administrative support are there.
- Germany: The most members of our Hilo team are in Germany and located in Leipzig. 2 members are in Berlin and 1 in Hamburg. We develop Hilo, sell the coffee and build networks of support to this initiative. There is as well, distribution and the other part of logistics, and fundraising for the social projects.