Conservation International, César Echeverry earn CQI’s 2019 Merit Awards

For 21 years, Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) has awarded the Leadership Medal of Merit to companies and individual that exemplify our organization’s values, from improving coffee quality at origin to promoting human well-being.

We are very excited to announce the two recipients of our 2019 Leadership Medal of Merit: Conservation International and César Augusto Echeverry Castaño of TECNiCAFÉ. The awards will be presented April 13 at our annual luncheon during the Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston, where we’ll hear from the recipients as we recognize their achievements.

Conservation International, a leader in sustainable coffee

Receiving the Leadership Medal of Merit in the corporate category is Conservation International, the nonprofit environmental organization that helps societies responsibly and sustainably care for nature through policy and partnerships with countries, communities and companies, working with more than 2,000 partners in 30 countries.

For more than two decades, Conservation International has worked with coffee producers and the broader industry to promote sustainable practices that preserve the biodiversity of coffee-producing areas. In 2015, Conservation International—working in partnership with Starbucks—launched the Sustainable Coffee Challenge during that year’s Paris climate meetings. The goal of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge is to unite the coffee industry—including growers, traders, roasters, retailers, governments, and NGOs—in a global effort to make coffee the world’s first fully sustainable agricultural project.

To date, the Sustainable Coffee Challenge is composed of 116 partners working together to stimulate greater demand for sustainable coffee and scale up programs promoting improved livelihoods, the conservation of nature, and a continued supply of coffee. The Sustainable Coffee Challenge engages in collaborative efforts with its partners across four networks to achieve its mission: scaling up sustainable sourcing; farm renovation and rehabilitation; improved labor practices and supply; and mapping and monitoring of coffee and forests. The Sustainable Coffee Challenge is the largest global effort working to create greater demand for, and investments in, sustainable coffee.

David Roche, the executive director of CQI, says CI is an important organization promoting sustainable coffee. “Conservation International has been an ally of CQI, and I’ve long admired their work implementing projects and programs at the producer level,” David says. “The Sustainable Coffee Challenge further continues their efforts to effect positive change in coffee-producing communities, and is an impressive display of bringing a diverse group of stakeholders together for a common cause. We are excited to honor them with a Leadership Medal of Merit.”

Bambi Semroc, VP sustainable markets and strategy at Conservation International, says the organization is gratified to be recognized for its work advancing sustainability in the coffee sector for over two decades. “We have made tremendous strides in that time, but we have a long way to go,” she says. “Conservation International is honored to be recognized for our role in the Sustainable Coffee Challenge. We’re facing some tough market and climate challenges within the industry. Yet there’s incredible momentum and a desire to work together toward finding solutions. Each new partner, milestone and recognition helps further this and reinforces the industry’s commitment in ensuring coffee is fully sustainable from crop to cup.”

César Augusto Echeverry Castaño, a visionary in Colombian coffee

César Echeverry is receiving the Leadership Medal of Merit in the individual category. César is the director and founder of TECNiCAFÉ, the innovate coffee technology park located in Popayán, Colombia, which is co-owned by CQI. Launched through a public-private partnership and in operation since 2017, TECNiCAFÉ serves as a technology incubator, experimental farm, and research center modeled after the Stanford Research Park. With these resources, TECNiCAFÉ strives to help producers increase the value of their coffee.

César has worked in coffee for virtually his entire life. The son of coffee farmers, he held several posts with the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), including serving as Colombia’s representative to the International Coffee Organization, before leaving to focus on TECNiCAFÉ. In addition to founding TECNiCAFÉ, César is the manager of Supracafé in Colombia, where he oversees a specialty-coffee farm with integrated processing.

David Roche, CQI’s executive director, says César’s lifelong dedication to strengthening Colombia’s coffee sector makes him deserving of the Leadership Medal of Merit. “TECNiCAFÉ is a stunning achievement—the resources available there are world-renowned and help provide vital research and training to help support the future of coffee,” says David. “And the institution would not exist without the vision and leadership of César Echeverry, who worked tirelessly bringing together many organizations in partnership to bring TECNiCAFÉ to life.”

César says he is humbled to receive the Merit Award, and is eager to address the audience at the annual luncheon in Boston. “Many thanks to CQI for this recognition and special support for our inter-institutional effort that is TECNiCAFÉ,” César says. “I am very happy and enthusiastic to receive this important distinction, and I look forward to expressing my thanks and inviting the industry to join our network of open and collaborative innovation.”

Join us in Boston

The Leadership Medal of Merit is the highest honor we bestow at CQI; past recipients have included Sunalini Menon (Coffee Board of India), Timothy Schilling (World Coffee Research), Lindsey Bolger (Keurig Green Mountain), and the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC).

We present this award at the annual luncheon, CQI’s singular fundraiser each year. The event provides a platform to share updates about our work, honor the Leadership Medal of Merit recipients, and connect with friends old and new who are dedicated to the pursuit of coffee quality.

Interested in attending and/or sponsoring our luncheon in Boston this year? Please head here for more details.


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