Coffee supplier Simon Lévelt is on its way to producing climate neutral coffee. Part of that process is an audit, in which an independent body checks whether all conditions have been met. Climate Neutral Group was allowed to join for observation in December 2021 to see how this works in practice.
If you want to become climate neutral with your organization, product, or service, an extensive process precedes this. After all, you have to be able to actually live up to that claim before you receive it. It starts with a footprint, reduction plan, compensating for what you can’t yet reduce… and then you still have to meet a number of certification requirements. To check whether this has been successful and if you can use the term climate neutral, an annual audit is carried out.
The audit is led by someone from an independent body, in this case, Joris Bens of Preferred by Nature. He visits Simon Lévelt for the first time and has a decent list of questions with him. He addresses this to Alexander Nobels, Head of Quality, Health, and Safety and the Environment. Both men have prepared themselves well and have already emailed each other several documents in advance.
However, before we start, the day begins with a delicious cup of coffee, slow coffee even. That’s not the only thing. During the audit, Alexander regularly conjures up special flavors of coffee and tea. Quite special to have an office with up to 100 types of beans and leaves!
Documents in order
Joris leads the audit and goes through all the steps carefully. The words ‘minor non-conformity are mentioned; something relatively small that is missing, but which – as it turns out later – can be put to rest fairly quickly. There are quite a few documents that need to be in order. As an organization, you must also be able to demonstrate that the improvement actions you take are effective.
For example, a point that is discussed is gas consumption: how do you know exactly what you are consuming for that part of your product that is certified? The word ‘land use’ also falls. As a coffee producer, you have to know how the farmers in Peru, for example, use their land. “If there is a lot of deforestation, you have two choices: no more buying from the farmer in question, or reforesting together with him. If that happens, we will probably choose that 2nd option,” says Alexander.
Types and flavours
The great thing about an audit surrounding coffee is that it is about a product that you use every day. Alexander talks about different types of beans, an assortment that is constantly changing, and how the process of tasting coffee works. That turns out to be a world in itself, where a real taste scheme is involved.
It gets really interesting when he takes us into the factory afterward. We see huge silos of different types of coffee coming together in a tube that goes to the roaster, where the freshly roasted beans spin their rounds while cooling. The packaging machine does its job and turns it into beautiful bags of coffee.
Alexander explains that they would like to make their packaging more sustainable, but at the same time have to take oxygen into account. For coffee beans: air may come out (it even has to, otherwise the bags can explode!) but no oxygen is allowed. It is therefore difficult to replace the plastic valve. “We could try reusable aluminum coffee cans, but that’s difficult for food safety because you don’t know how clean they come back,” he explains. “We are currently testing with recyclable material. Packaging-free would be ideal, but there are still too many snags.”
Another ambition they have at Simon Lévelt is to minimize the loss of packaging material. When starting up the machine, the first part is always lost, Alexander calls this ‘cutting loss.’ “That’s why we try to pack the same types of coffee at the same time as much as possible so that the machine doesn’t have to be restarted as often.”
We end our tour at the tea, where an enthusiastic employee shows us how the process works from loose tea to box with bags. What a beautiful machine that can do all that in two minutes. Today was not only a glimpse into an audit but also at an enthusiastic company with beautiful – and above all very tasty – products!