SRA launches sustainable café ratings

By Melodie Michel contact

- Last updated on GMT

The SRA's coffee shop rating will have an increased focus on community engagement
The SRA's coffee shop rating will have an increased focus on community engagement

Related tags: Coffee

The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) is launching a rating scheme to assess the sustainability of the UK’s café operations.

The scheme, which looks beyond the sourcing of coffee beans to evaluate milk, eggs and disposable containers, was developed in collaboration with Costa, and aims to complement other certifications popular in coffee shops, such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance.

Henry Dimbleby, SRA board director and founder of Leon, told BigHospitality: “So far the bean was the only thing people were thinking about, whether it was Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade, but they were realising that there were other areas where not only they wanted to up their game, but also their customers were keen to see responsibility.”

The rating is built around the three pillars of sourcing, environment and society, and membership benefits include expert advice and a support service. 

Initially tailored for chains, the scheme will be tweaked for independent coffee shops and cafés with a launch expected in about a month.

Social responsibility

Dimbleby explained that due to the nature of coffee shop businesses, the social element was going to be a big part of the rating.

“In particular for cafes, there’s a real sense of how they engage with the community. Our high streets have gone from being meeting places for the community to conveyor belts taking people from one shop to another without a connected heart, and cafes can play a big role in restoring that connection, being the new community meeting places,” he added.

The social part will include community engagement (supporting charities and having regard for the local community in terms of noise, litter etc), treating people fairly (including fair pay, contracts, training including on sustainability), and responsible marketing (communicating clearly about sustainability and costs and giving customers a chance to feedback any complaints).

Healthy eating  (offering alternatives to people with allergies, healthy options) will also have more weight in the overall rating than for restaurants because of how often people go to cafes compared with restaurants.

Rating system

To take part in the scheme, cafés must complete a survey, and provide evidence on questions across 14 areas of sustainability.

Three ratings are available:

  • Three-Star Sustainability Champions – These cafés have demonstrated exceptional all round sustainability, scoring consistently well across every category totalling at least 70 per cent.
  • Two-Star Sustainability Champions – These cafés have demonstrated excellent all round sustainability, scoring at least 60 per cent.
  • One-Star Sustainability Champions – These cafés have demonstrated good all round sustainability, scoring at least 50 per cent.

Sandy Gourlay, corporate responsibility manager at Costa, said: “We are delighted that we have been able to draw on our long-standing expertise to help establish a new sustainable café standard in partnership with the SRA. Cafés will now have their own recognised sustainability rating like so many other sectors and the SRA will support our sector’s journey to a more sustainable future.”

Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming, added: “People are rightly concerned by the provenance of their coffee but many may forget about the sustainability and animal welfare credentials of the other products they buy in cafés daily. We welcome this new rating as it looks at the bigger picture.”

Full details about the new ratings will be revealed at the lunch! exhibition on 23 September. For more information visit

Related topics: Business, Restaurants, Trends & Reports

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