Commitment to sustainability in coffee producing countries
While Canadians continue their love affair with coffee – and specialty brews in particular – ensuring the sustainability and health of the communities where the crops are grown is a priority for one of the country’s major importers of beans, Keurig Canada.
“Our impact extends across a global supply chain, and we’re committed to responsible sourcing by supporting and empowering the people who grow the coffee and by encouraging agricultural practices that sustain the land,” says Cynthia Shanks, director, communications and sustainability, Keurig Canada, a leader in speciality coffee and single-serve brewing.
Since setting a target in 2014 to engage and improve the livelihoods of one million people in the company’s supply chain, 485,000 people have benefited from various initiatives including better farming practices, new sources of income and food, and access to clean water.
As part of the company’s outreach, every year about 50 employees visit coffee-producing countries through the Employee Source Trips program.
Ms. Shanks recalls her own visit, to Colombia, as a life-changing experience. In the Indigenous community of San Lorenzo, while the community maintains a traditional lifestyle, over the last 18 years Keurig’s initiatives have resulted in the funding of health clinics, working to empower women and supporting the development of small businesses, she says.
The source trips take place between December and June every year, depending on the country and the timing of the coffee crops.
“We want our employees to be fully immersed in the coffee culture, meet with farmers, understand their challenges, pick cherries (the fruit on the coffee bush containing the bean) and witness the impact of our work and relationships at the source,” she says.
“We have also implemented water filtration systems in the local co-ops. The water that is used to wash coffee becomes very acidic, and it’s very important that this water is correctly filtered before going back to the environment,” adds Ms. Shanks.
Income diversity is also a major focus. At San Luis Planes in Honduras – the source of coffee for one of the Van Houtte Signature Collection varieties – Keurig has been working with local farmers to develop small grocery stores, build a community centre and improve food security through vegetable production and a pig fattening project. These enterprises provide incomes for the families during the seasons when there is no coffee to sell.
As Keurig continues to collaborate with various organizations to ensure that coffee can be farmed sustainably into the future, it is also working to make K-Cup pods recyclable in Canada by the end of 2018 and to advance the circular economy.
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