Search results page


Coffee bags from the AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program

Holistic approach to sustainable coffee farming

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program was launched in 2003. It combines Nespresso coffee expertise and quality criteria with the sustainable farming expertise of the Rainforest Alliance, a leading non-profit conservation organisation.

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program is our unique green coffee sourcing approach that combines a focus on quality, sustainability and productivity. It has helped to secure the supply of the highest quality coffees required for Nespresso consumers and the livelihoods of the farmers that grow them, while protecting the environment. At the end of 2015, the AAA Program counted over 70,000 coffee farmers in 12 coffee-growing countries.


Empowering coffee growers and their communities

The AAA Program counts over 70,000 coffee farmers
in 12 coffee-growing countries

The AAA Program invests in community infrastructures, pays price premiums for superior coffee and best agricultural practices, and provides farmers with trainings and technical assistance to continuously improve their performance in each of the three A’s of the program: quality, sustainability and productivity.

  • First A: Quality

Because of our strict coffee selection process and our sourcing based on select terroirs, we estimate that only 1-2%* of the coffee grown globally meets our specific taste and aroma profiles, and quality requirements. Around 30% of each harvest from farms that Nespresso works with meets those stringent requirements. The remainder of the crop provides farmers with a valuable supply for the wider sustainable coffee market. The AAA Program helps farmers adopt best practices in coffee cultivation to protect the supply of these highest quality coffees.

  • Second A: Sustainability

Through the AAA Program, coffee farmers are becoming more environmentally and socially responsible. The program sets rigorous environmental and social standards based on the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). These include protection of biodiversity, water management, and farm workers’ rights and working conditions. Innovative projects are addressing not only on-farm ecosystems but also issues affecting the broader natural landscape surrounding them.

  • Third A: Productivity

Based on our field experience over the years, we have learned that productivity is an essential ingredient for economically viable and sustainable coffee farming. The AAA Program helps farmers to improve their productivity and implement cost reduction initiatives to increase their net income. This is the Nespresso approach called Real Farmer Income™.

The AAA Program represents our long-term commitment to farmers and coffee growing communities. This approach drives improvements in social, environmental and economic conditions for coffee farmers and farming communities.


More than a fair price for coffee farmers

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program involves paying premiums for both quality and sustainability. The premium is around 30% to 40% above the standard market price for coffee and 10% to 15% above coffees of similar quality.


The AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program is producing concrete
positive results on the ground in coffee growing communities

Support and direct investments in coffee growing regions

The AAA Program is about much more than paying a premium. It is about building partnerships with farmers and providing them with long-term support. Together with our partners, we provide trainings and technical assistance through a network of over 300 agronomists as part of our Tool for the Assessment of Sustainable Quality (TASQ™) . This unique methodology addresses criteria for social and environmental sustainability as defined with the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). These include 296 SAN criteria as well as additional country specific criteria set by Nespresso addressing local agricultural practices, coffee processing and harvesting.


The 296 SAN criteria adopted by Nespresso include:

  • 56 economic criteria, such as farm management, traceability and training.
  • 90 environmental criteria, such as conservation, wildlife protection, soil and waste management.
  • 150 social criteria, such as health & safety, working conditions and community relations.
Read all the TASQ™ criteria


Second, we also work with various local and international partners on specific projects to drive sustainable development, such as:

  • Building a central mill in Jardín, Colombia.
  • Providing financial training for over 500 farmers in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
  • Gaining a better understanding of coffee farm profitability , with INCAE, the leading international business school in Latin America.
  • Ensuring that the AAA Program brings economic, social and environmental benefits to coffee farmers around Coorg and Chikmagalur, India with coffee suppliers Ecom, Allanasons and Aspinwall.
  • Providing and planting over 500’000 leaf-rust resistant coffee plantlet to 363 farms in Caldas and Antioquia, Colombia
  • Planting trees in Guatemala and Colombia to regenerate the native environment of coffee while enabling agricultural output.
  • Investing in infrastructures in producing countries, such as drying beds, waste management systems and water treatment systems.



To find out more, see our sustainability case studies.


Driving social innovation

Coffee farmers registering for the pilot retirement
savings plan

Going beyond farm level, we are also pursuing innovative long-term solutions to coffee farmer welfare. As part of the AAA Farmer Future Program , we have established a retirement savings plan for coffee farmers taking part in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, in Caldas, Colombia.

This pilot initiative, launched in 2014, is possible through a public-private partnership with the Colombian Ministry of Labour, the Aguadas Coffee Growers’ Cooperative, Expocafé and Fairtrade International. Over 1'000 farmers have already registered to benefit from it. The first payments were made in May 2015, with Nespresso distributing around USD 440 000 to farmers in Caldas.


100% sustainably sourced coffee through the AAA Program by 2020

At the end of 2015, we were sourcing over 80% of our coffee from the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program. This involves working with about 70,000 farmers in twelve countries: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Nicaragua, Kenya, Peru, Indonesia, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

By 2020 we aim to source 100% of our coffee for our permanent Grand Cru range from the AAA Program. The expansion of the AAA Program in Africa, especially in Kenya and Ethiopia, plays a key role in enabling us to do this. Farmer training through our partner TechnoServe aims to help improve productivity and coffee quality through better and more sustainable practices.

We are also committed to reviving high quality coffee production in South Sudan. Our initial focus is on improving yields and coffee quality, by establishing central wet mills, training farmers on agricultural best practices and developing commercial channels to enable the sale and export of South Sudanese coffee.


The AAA Program creates tangible and positive benefits for farmers

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program is producing concrete positive results on the ground in coffee growing communities. Independent monitoring organisation CRECE (Centro de Estudios Regionales Cafeteros y Empresariales) surveyed over 1,000 Colombian coffee farmers on the impacts of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program .

The study found that AAA farms had 22.6% better social conditions, 41% better economic conditions and 52% better environmental conditions than non-AAA farms. Net income levels were found to be 46% higher for AAA farmers than non-AAA farmers. Additionally, farmers participating in the program reported an increased volume of coffee sold to Nespresso since they had joined the program.

To find out more, refer to our sustainability case studies and read our page on the AAA Program.

Download our infographics on sustainable coffee quality (2nd version)


The Nespresso AAA Program pays better prices for quality. It has also taught me a lot of things I had never considered before, with respect to the environment and running my farm. Now I know my costs as well as my income. I have also learned how to care better for nature: to grow coffee under shade trees, to plant vetiver to help keep the rivers and streams clean and to dispose of waste properly. The AAA Program has taught me how to look after my farm so that it is still producing in the future for our children and grandchildren.

Álvaro Chavarría Zumbado, coffee grower in La Giorgia, Costa Rica



* The World Bank estimated in a report about 10 years ago that 10-20% of the worldwide coffee crop be considered gourmet coffee, a category defined by the industry. Since Nespresso has very strict taste criteria, a sourcing approach based on terroir specificities and a quality management process more stringent than for the gourmet coffee category, we estimate that within this particular gourmet coffee category, only another 10-20% of the coffee matches our taste and quality requirements. This is why we estimate that only 1-2% of the worldwide coffee crop matches our requirements.