Frequently Asked Questions
- 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 can only ensure environmental sustainability after we ensure economic security and social fabric restoration (generation of trust). However, the Giraldo family, the first family in the system, started to implement organic agriculture practices in their farm.
- 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 larger 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. However, from the very beginning, it is clear that sustainability is at the core of the system. For both farmers, and consumers.
- 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.
- 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?
We believe that climate protection is focused on making every commodity consumed (every cup of coffee) support a form of sustainable development. The goal? To support 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 different means, like bike last mile logistics, conservation and restoration of ecosystems in a biodiversity hotspot: Colombia.
- 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.
- 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). In other words, we enable the privilege of planning in communities with a close relationship to the soil where they live.
- Do you also offer financial advice 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. We foster a critical culture in both the consumers, and the farmers.
- How does the coffee come from the farm to me?
It comes by ship through the Atlantic ocean. See our traceability efforts in our transparency site!
- Where is the coffee roasted?
The coffee is roasted in both the countries of origin: Colombia, and destination Germany. We strive that it is a high-quality finished-product made entirely in Colombia, at the early stages of this endeavour, we require the flexibility of roasting in Germany with allies who acknowledge our system, and its system costs.
- How do you measure your social impact?
We developed a Theory of Change which answers to a Theory of the Challenge. It 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.
- 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 others. 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. Quality for us is a process of continuous improvement for everyone involved. Hence, we strive to co-create an inclusive system where producers can grow in dignity, quality and sustainability. And our consumers can grow in wisdom.
- How is the social work organized?
The social work is self-organized by the social leaders: Patricia Arroyave, and Marta Rojas. They share their work with reports and regular updates regarding activities, and our key performance indicators are then calculated to measure their overall social impact.
- How do you comply with your key values?
- Trust is given as opposed to earned: Trust is assuming each person, (producer, consumer, and employee) is doing the best of his/her ability, acting out of goodwill, and assuming a hopeful perspective. Trust is striving for predictability within a shared culture. We strive to make ourselves predictable to our peers so they can trust our word, and decisions. In a nutshell, we give trust to receive trust.
- We support communities via the empowerment of individuals with individual agreements for the collective benefit.
- Respect out of dignity as opposed to fear: Respect is doing what we say we would do, and acknowledging that no role is more or less important than any other: Acknowledging each other as people with the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect. For example:
- It is saying that no one can use the force against you. Or you against anyone.
- It is acknowledging that you are accountable. Accepting responsibility and being able to meet anyone in the eye every single day.
- Humility in empathy as opposed to pity: Humility in community is understanding that we choose to live a life connected, by helping out each other, holding accountability, accompanying each other, acting out of humility, and understanding that you belong. For example:
- It is acknowledging that we work with people as opposed to professions. People bringing their whole selves bring as well their personal problems, and this is normal. Persons have virtues and vices.
- Knowledge building as wisdom as opposed to intelligence: We adapt every moment to our long-term common understanding of reality (or vision), by learning from our experiences, in other words: always experimenting, but constructing on top of the constructed. For example:
- Hilo is a system being collectively “learned”, instead of “done”.
- Empiric knowledge is as relevant as scientific knowledge.
- 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.
- 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). The main difference is the bottom-up approach from Hilo, as opposed to a top-down approach.
- 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. We think it is the basic-income necessary to start considering future cooperation for ecological sustainability. Today these are monthly incomes, but we strive for a complete inclusion in a social protection system.
- 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.
- Can I get Hilo coffee in a regular shop?
- How is Hilo different to regular coffee distribution channels?
- We want to change the classic supply chain to a trust-building 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, it strives to create a teal organization for coffee trade and uses concepts from sustainability science and a theory of change.
- How can I involve myself in this systemic change?
You can participate! To take part you can get a subscription for example! We strive to offer coffee as a service for sustainability. The best way is by pre-financing with us each harvest: you pay a monthly fee and receive 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).
- Who is part of Hilo in Germany and Colombia?
- Colombia: The coffee farmers, social project managers, part of the communication team, 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. In Germany, distribution and the other part of logistics, and fundraising for the social projects.