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Circular Coffee Collective; let's make the circular economy doable by making it small, human and transparant, starting at your office.

We need to think as value chains and connect all circular and regenerative efforts together by taking a transparant, collaborative approach.

Photo of Maarten van Keulen
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Circular Coffee Collective

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

We like to show that the office coffee corner can be circular and regenerative, from beginning to the end. From plantation to waste at your office. We are with a coordinating team, but we also work with several partners to make sure this coffee corner is correct, healing and regenerative in every way possible. This Side Up Coffees: a transparant coffee importer with focus on regenerative coffee farming. ptthee, a regenerative local herbal tea growing company in the Netherlands. Mesjokke, a transparant chocolate company, providing transparant cocoa powder. SOOP, making soap from our spent coffee grounds. CaffeInk, making ink from our spent coffee grounds. Special Roast, roasting our coffees in an artisanal way and delivering in a deposit system, leading to no waste. reNature, an NGO advising on how to create regenerative agroforestry coffee growing systems. Progreso, an NGO advising on how to structure farmer cooperations in an organization and financial good way.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

The Netherlands

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

We work in 12 coffee producing countries with defined plantations. Right now, we focus on our partners in eastern Congo, with 786 hectares.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Democratic Republic of Congo

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Eastern Congo is one of the most unstable areas in the world. By establishing a direct connection tot the end consumer, in this case the office environment in the Netherlands and Belgium, we can create economic stability for the coffee farmers. Once there is stability, growers have no reason to join the local militias anymore, directly leading to more peace in the area by consuming this coffee. After the basic needs of economic stability and peace, one can talk about other challenges, like waste production and ecological deprivation. On the buying side, offices are the most stable coffee consumers in a society. We offer a personalized blend, a direct connection with the farmer, sustainable investments, and opportunities for companies to "market" this good doing. Once this is established, relationships last for a minimum of several years. Companies that have tasted their personalized blend and have had direct farmer connections, won't go back to bulk coffee that is being sold at slightly cheaper prices. The added value we offer is recognized and respected easily. On the selling side, this direct connection and "sales guarantee" takes off a lot of pressure of the farmers to sell their products. This relieved pressure opens the doors to talk about other problems that involve regenerative farming and circular economy, next to establishing peace and stability for the connected families of the coffee growers.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The area is located on the island of Idwji, the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The local inhabitants are kind people, but live in a certain sense of fear. The government is not supportive, there is a lot of smuggling at the border with Rwanda, and many people have relatives that have been killed by local militias or have drowned whilst smuggling goods over the lake. The climate is very tropical, and the natural surroundings are close to a tropical rainforest. The people live in small villages, and the farmers live with their families on smallholder farms, and have a few hectares at their disposition. They have united themselves under a cooperation, to reach the European and American markets with their products, hoping for more stability.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Right now, the economics and policy are the most important challenges. The government of the DR of Congo is unstable, and militias and unrest is common in the area. This inability of proper policy and policy implementation has direct impacts on the economy, the diets (hunger) and the environment. The ecosystem is under threat, as it is considered a luxury to keep this ecosystem standing when one has hunger or is involved in armed conflicts. These are current problems, but will also stay future problems if not tackled properly.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

By establishing direct trade connections from the farmers to the end market, this negative cycle can be broken. Children can go to school, hunger is a thing from the past, and farmers can now think about regenerative coffee farming practices. We present the most circular and regenerative office coffee corner, which gets the offices on board. We offer 100% transparency and provide direct (Skype, email) connections with the farmers for the offices that buy their coffees. These offices commit to the buying, and the Circular Coffee Collective enables and facilitates all "the rest", being the export, import, roasting, packaging and delivery of the products. Offices can sit back and enjoy their personalized cup of coffee, as they are allowed to go to the roaster to decide their own roasting profile, when the contract starts. The Circular Coffee Collective provides media packages and outlets for the offices to show their good doing, and also get a discount when they commit for more years.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Economic stability provides peace in an entire area. Economic stability gives space to talk about reforestation and regenerative farming practices. No more war, no more ecological destruction, no more hunger, just by offices drinking this coffee. Offices now don't "think" about the coffee they consume, only about the price they pay. We make clear that there lies a world behind this, and that there is much added value in knowing the value chain transparently and being actively involved in it.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The Food System we're targeting is a monoculture coffee growing system that destroys the ecosystem balance in the Eastern part of the DR of Congo. It destroys this as a result of political and economic instability, and thus this needs to be tackled first. By establishing transparant, open and direct trading connections to a stable market (the European office market), economic stability can be provided to the local coffee farmers. Once this is in place, there is no need to join the local militias, adding to the political stability. After this has been established, farmers can think beyond hunger and fear, and start opening up for new ways of farming, being regenerative agroforestry. This is the sequence and logic we stand for, and apply this in areas all over the world. We could be involved in the "easy" coffee countries, but prefer to take on the challenging ones that really make a lasting impact and difference. We have access to market, we have the overview of the value chain, and are willing to share this openly. The Congolese case is therefore not a single case. It can take in more neighboring farms, as well as being a model case for other difficult and unstable areas all over the world. We think as a system, and help farmers by opening up the market access and access to knowledge. Of every kg of coffee we sell, we put 1 euro aside and put it in a farmer fund. This fund is for farmers to use to buy trees to create regenerative coffee farms, like buying avocado seedlings and more. We really work with the two ends of the value chain, and connect them to each other. We facilitate the needs of the farmers, and have talks with them as equal entrepreneurs. We are a social enterprise and believe in equality. It is the coffee growing community that does the heavy lifting, we as the Circular Coffee Collective can only facilitate the needs of both the farmers and end consumers. We don't want to own anything, it is about fair and open relationships that create a snowball effect of economic stability, political stability, no hunger, increased dietary variety and improved regenerative farming systems.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website


Join the conversation:

Photo of Constanza Castano

Hi Maarten! Thank you for publishing your Vision!
This is a very compelling narrative I would love to see evolving into a full 2050 food system vision. The following link may be of interest to continue refining your 2050 Vision. Here you will find the invitation to an upcoming Future-casting Webinar, and a recording of our recent Systems Thinking Webinar:
This is the moment when you can connect with other Visionary teams, provide feedback and get inspired by other submissions.
Warm regards,

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