Every day, millions of Americans drink, on average, 2.1 cups of coffee; each cup takes about a hundred beans to brew1. Each bean must go through harvesting, wet milling, drying, dry milling, storing, shipping, trucking, roasting, grinding and packaging before it is available for us to pick off a store shelf and bring home to brew. Coffee may be simple to prepare in the home — especially if you have a Keurig machine on your counter — but the work behind such a ubiquitous beverage is incredibly complex and starts, as with most things we love, with people.
As one of the world’s leading coffee companies, Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) has had a deep commitment to sustainable, ethical coffee sourcing since the early days of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. KDP has committed to sourcing 100 percent of our coffee responsibly and to improving the lives of 1 million people in our supply chain by 2020, and is making significant progress in both areas. These goals are designed to bring us beyond the audit “checklist” and bring true, meaningful impact to coffee communities.
In addition, KDP has sent dozens of employees on source trips to countries across the “Coffee Belt” over the past 25 years, to meet directly with farmers and their families, co-ops and their communities, from Brazil to Uganda. These trips are available to employees across all business lines and functions to introduce them to our coffee-sourcing communities; they are integral to creating a company culture full of curiosity, respect and understanding, as well as helping to engage our employees in different areas of our business they may not otherwise be exposed to.
We believe in the power of human connection. Sharing a meal, kicking a soccer ball, laughing together with the people at the core of our business helps us to create positive change throughout our industry. In order to make meaningful impact, we need to see firsthand exactly what challenges coffee producers are facing and hear for ourselves how we can be a better partner and invest in building both the environmental and human capital in their communities.
The challenges facing coffee production are many. Coffee is a fickle crop with exacting environmental needs and significant labor demands. It is grown mainly in hot, humid, mountainous climates near the Equator, in rural communities with limited infrastructure and development opportunities. Our commitment to improving the lives of one million people in our supply chain by 2020 comes from seeing these struggles and challenges firsthand.
For example, as is often the case in rural communities, opportunities to get ahead can be limited by access to education and resources. A few years ago, in rural Guatemala, KDP Senior Manager of Sustainability Colleen Popkin was traveling with Heifer International, launching a program to address food insecurity through income diversification. During this trip, she met a woman about her age — Osma — and they bonded quickly. Osma related the food insecurity her family was experiencing, and how their quality of life balanced on the success of one single crop.
A year later, after training from Heifer in beekeeping as an additional income source, Osma traveled to meet Colleen on a dusty roadside to deliver a bottle of honey. She had jumped into beekeeping head first, long believing in honey’s medicinal benefits for her family. Osma was making a product she was proud of, while earning a good income for her and her kids. On the next trip, Osma and her kids got a taste of a sweet treat from Colleen’s home — Vermont Maple Syrup.
These types of personal connections imprint on our employees the true meaning behind our corporate commitments. By bringing our employees to source, face to face with the farmers who help make some of the best quality coffee in the world, we are taking those ambitious goals down to a human level. This is when goals become values.