How Jose Gonzalez-Maya worked together with companies to create Jaguar Friendly Coffee

January 16, 2019

Facebook follower Pierre Caranton asked us ‘How would FFN Award winners like to work with companies to involve them, their employees, and their customers in their mission?’. We sent this to José González-Maya and he took the time to answer the question.

Human impact

Nature conservation is a need and a global concern that affects us all as humans. Our concerns regarding the loss of species and ecosystems is because it means a significant threat not only to those species in peril. The loss of species and ecosystems is a direct and severe threat to us humans in general, to our wellbeing and even to our survival. As such, conservation action is a matter to us humans in general, to all societies across the world.

Sadly all threats to nature come directly from our actions as humans. Therefore, solutions to revert extinction are also in the hand of us, humans, and how we as society respond to an increasing global threat. Sure, we conservation scientists and practitioners deal with such threats every day, but again, in order to actually revert this extinction process, we need the commitment and awareness of the entire society. Everyday decisions that we make as inhabitants of our planet have an impact, either positive or negative, on nature; it is up to us which one we make.

The involvement of companies

Companies are a critical and fundamental component of our global society both in terms of the goods and services that they provide, but also as social organisations that bring people under a common umbrella and interest. Increasingly, companies around the world think and invest more and more on their social and environmental responsibility and even more in the sustainability of their activities. Such increasing interest responds to both the demand from costumers for more responsible products and services, but also to the increasing awareness of company owners and stockholders. This trend is sadly not occurring as fast as needed, but it is definitely the right path towards reverting nature deterioration processes.

Companies have numerous ways in which they can positively impact our world. From responsible decisions regarding their specific economic activity to the involvement of the company, its employees and customers on nature conservation awareness processes or through environmental responsibility. In any case, the impact of companies, through their chains of supply, production and commercialization, have enormous potential for bringing change to their immediate surroundings. Companies also have an impact far beyond their physical and institutional boundaries, through suppliers, customers and employees.

Jaguar Friendly Coffee

From my own experience, I would like to highlight an example from our work that has shown amazing results in the habitats we work and for the species we are especially concerned. Recently, the second batch of the world´s first Jaguar Friendly Coffee was released to the United States market; Jaguar Friendly (JF) is a conservation strategy that involves local producers located in jaguar habitats and corridors. A company and NGOs facilitate the process. It is aimed on customers that are interested in buying coffee that is environmentally friendly and contributes beyond providing a nice steamy cup. Our JF strategy is based on the potential contribution shade-grown coffee production systems that are adequately managed and provide as temporary habitat for jaguars in critical areas for the species.

First, we did the science; for many years we studied jaguar ecology, distribution, threats and conservation needs in two critical areas for jaguar conservation in the continent. From there we identified and selected the most important and critical areas for jaguar survival in the long term. We then studied and worked with local communities to understand the human dimensions and reality of these landscapes, their livelihoods and needs. After that, we designed our scheme; we could certify their production once they meet the jaguar conservation standards (i.e., no hunting, heterogeneous shade, adequate crop management, conflict reduction measures) and help them get a much better price and a stable market for their coffee, given its contribution to jaguar conservation. Once harvested, all JF coffee is exported to Arizona.

In Arizona, an amazing company, Press Coffee, processes and helps marketing and selling the coffee with the support of the Phoenix Zoo. All of the returns and benefits are directly reinvested in the regions and in jaguar conservation. The price of the certified coffee covers all expenses, surpasses normal market prices by far, covers the opportunity cost of changing coffee for other less-friendly land use and most importantly, switches jaguar perceptions from enemies to positive assets of the farms. Our initiative brings farmers, conservation organisations, companies and costumers together under the same umbrella: saving one of the most amazing species on earth.

This strategy is not the only one in the world; our Jaguar Friendly is part of the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network. This is a global network of companies that aim for the same goal: secure wildlife conservation through sustainable production and by improving human wellbeing in shared landscapes. Such network certifies similar products across the globe, all with incredible results. Our JF ecolabel fits within this large trend of companies committed to a better world.

Future perspective

We need more and more allies in our race against extinction. Help can come in many forms and from all possible sources. Once companies, and people in general, understand the urgency of taking action and move from spectators to actors, we will have a chance of reverting the terrible impact we are causing on the planet. There are billions of forms companies can support conservation and even more in which society in general can contribute; only together we can engage in facing our environmental problems. Please, anyone as company owner, stockholder, employee or costumer, be proactive, search for opportunities to contribute, influence into the right decision making and into companies joining conservation efforts, be a conservation champion in your own surroundings. Most conservationists will be more than happy to hear, help and guide your interest and willingness to contribute. Make sure your voice is heard and your interest and concern becomes action!

We are right on the edge, but we are still on time of slowing and reverting most nature degradation problems; only together we can change our fate and the fate of our planet.