Protea Hotels

6 million cups of coffee served per year = 6 million opportunities to create sustainable employment, support small-scale farmers, uplift communities and be ecologically responsible.

That’s what the Protea Hospitality Group will do this month when it switches to serving Fairtrade Certified Espresso Coffee, Lavazza Tierra Rain Forest Alliance Espresso Coffee and Relationship Filter Coffee in its respective African Pride Hotels and Protea Hotels in South Africa.

The Protea Hospitality Group is the first hotel company in South Africa to be switching to Triple-Certified Coffee, and it is the largest hospitality company in the country as well serving millions of cups of coffee each year.

The move to building sustainable national and international coffee communities as a coffee strategy by investing in STAFF development through trained baristas and using the different certified coffees is a natural progression after the company’s decision last year to switch from supplying plastic bottled water to filtered water in reusable glass containers in its conferencing venues, says company CEO Arthur Gillis.

It is an exciting new offering that lives, aligns with and uplifts the Protea Hospitality Group ethos and commitment to social responsibility of both people and the environment.

“Fairtrade is an initiative that dovetails very well with the objectives of Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels.

”It not only supports high-quality African beans that deliver a phenomenal in-cup taste experience, but also supports the ideals that everyone deserves a fair wage and the ability to support their families and communities,” says Gillis.

Coffee is one of the fastest growing Fairtrade products in South Africa and the market is worth an estimated R30 million, or 120 tons of coffee annually.

Fairtrade ( actively tackles poverty and empowers small-scale farmers and workers by ensuring better trading, working and living conditions. It also provides an additional income for community development projects and supports sustainable production and protection of the environment.

“Fairtrade certifies a wide variety of agricultural commodities; yet coffee is our flagship product with over 580 thousand small-scale coffee farmers certified across 28 countries  60% of them live in Africa, 30% in Latin America and 10% in Asia,” says Arianna Baldo, Business Manager at Fairtrade Label South Africa.

These small-scale producers receive USD 0,20 in Fairtrade Development Premium for every pound (approximately 0.45kg) of coffee they sell on Fairtrade terms. A quarter of this money must be spent in improving the quality of the coffee crop, and 75% can be spent in business development and community investments such as education, housing and health.

Gillis explains that Relationship Filter Coffee is a form of social investment in the global coffee industry that relates to assisting farmers and their communities in various projects to help improve the quality of the coffee during production as well as allowing investment in local coffee communities.

“We’ve also been working with the Ciro Coffee Academy in recent months to ensure that the baristas who work in our hotels receive top training so they appreciate that the creation of the perfect cup of coffee is far more than just a pour.

“We consider our baristas to be far more than ‘coffee makers’. They are skilled professionals who will ensure that our Fairtrade coffee is the best cup our GUESTS have ever tasted.”

The 100% Arabica Fairtrade Coffee in the special Protea Hotels blend originates in Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania and supports almost 90 000 small scale coffee growers, processors and exporters.

The Lavazza Rainforest Tierra Coffee – also a 100% Arabica – that will also be served carries the Rainforest Alliance Certification that guarantees products meet comprehensive standards for sustainability by being environmentally sound, economically viable and socially equitable.

Sustainability projects of this blend benefit small coffee farmers in Columbia, Honduras and Peru with improved living and working conditions.

Currently, Fairtrade is the world’s most recognised and trusted ethical food label.

Gillis says the latest move to offering sustainable, ethical and uplifting products is one in a long line of planned projects that started with spending millions of Rands on retrofitting environmentally unsound water and heating systems in hotels and providing filtered conferencing water.

“We believe we’ll be in a position in the not too distant future to make more of these announcements that benefit those who need it most and are environmentally sound. Watch this space.”

– Irvine Partners is a creative and savvy PR agency which specialises in delivering high impact and innovative Public Relations to companies.