Below are key certifications and terms related to sustainable and innovative coffee.

International organization whose members contribute at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental causes across climate, food, land, pollution, water and wildlife.

Designation issued by a nonprofit network certifying that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on various socioeconomic factors. Attaining this certification demonstrates a commitment to structural change of imbalanced economic systems via collective action.  

One of the major fair trade certifying bodies.  The Fairtrade America mark means that a brand has been certified for ethical and equitable practices. For coffee, this means in part that coffee farmers are paid a premium over the base commodity price for coffee, which has been depressed for some time and is insufficient by itself as a sustainable income.

One of the major fair trade certifying bodies. Fair Trade Certified indicates a guaranteed minimum price was paid for the raw coffee as a protection against low commodity prices.  The certification standards also address safe working conditions, traceability, and overall fair compensation.

An environmental charity focused on reforestation around the world, by planting one tree in a high-impact region for every dollar donated to the organization. 

A non-governmental organization certifying products that support sustainability through social, economic, and environmental initiatives. Farmers can demonstrate they meet the requirements for the seal by focusing on issues related to forestry, climate, human rights, and livelihoods, all of which permeate the coffee business.  

A new certification offered by the non-profit Regenerative Organic Alliance to farmers who exhibit high standards for soil health, animal welfare, and farmworker equity.  Regenerative agriculture methods are gaining in prominence as climate change accelerates erosion and carbon release.  Regenerative methods help to rehabilitate farmland and improve yields.  

The term shade-grown coffee is not a certification per se.  As the name suggests, it reflects the farming practices of growing coffee in environments with tree cover. This is important because tree cover means biodiversity and the preservation of rich ecosystems that would have otherwise been eliminated had the farm been clearcut for coffee.  However, there is no unified certification or monitor for coffee labeled as “shade-grown”.

Officially certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, this designation means that the coffee is 100% organic and was planted on farms under tree canopies, rather than landscapes that have been deforested.  These types of farms are friendly habitats to a variety of migratory bird species, thus the name of the certification, and are also more effective for carbon sequestration and erosion controls. The difference between coffee labeled as only shade-grown, as opposed to certified bird friendly, is that the shade-grown term by itself is not certified or verified by any one party.

The organic certification by the US Department of Agriculture indicates that the coffee producers have met certain standards for the growing and overall handling of coffee.