Published 2 years ago.
About a 8 minute read.
Image: One of KDP's new goals is to establish sustainability standards for its apple supply chain | Zen Chung/Pexels
/ This article is sponsored by
Keurig Dr Pepper.
After an unprecedented year, Keurig Dr Pepper’s 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report reveals how partnerships, innovation, transparency and investment allowed the company to achieve goals and launch industry-first new commitments.
Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) — with its broad
portfolio of more than 125 beverages and nearly 27,000 employees — is rife with
opportunities to be a catalyst for good across its value chain. The company’s
Drink Well. Do Good.
corporate responsibility platform focuses energy and resources on areas where
KDP can have the greatest impact — including environmental stewardship, supply
chain, health & wellbeing, and people & communities. After an unprecedented
year, KDP’s 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report
reveals how partnerships, innovation, transparency and investment allowed the
company to achieve goals and launch industry-first new commitments.
KDP’s history with responsible supply chain engagement began in 2014 when
Keurig Green Mountain committed to responsibly source 100 percent of its
coffee and Keurig brewers and to engage people within its supply chain to
improve their livelihoods by the end of 2020. KDP adopted those goals after the
merger between Keurig Green Mountain and Dr Pepper Snapple Group in 2018 to
carry on that sustainability legacy.
Forging ahead even in a year marked by a global pandemic, and labor and supply
challenges, KDP achieved its goals of responsibly sourcing 100 percent of its
coffee and improving the lives of one million people in its supply chain.
Reaching these milestones represents a significant achievement — not only for
the company, but for all businesses hoping to positively impact their entire
value chain. The lesson: It can be done.
KDP’s success didn’t happen overnight. It required years of strategic
stakeholder engagement and collaboration, a dedicated team focus and a clear
commitment from the organization to sustainability — not to mention a lot of
starts and stops along the way.
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“Reaching these longstanding milestones is a testament to KDP’s long-term
commitment to sustainability,” Whitney Kakos, a senior manager of
sustainability at KDP, told Sustainable Brands™. “Even with
organizational and leadership changes — and the continuity challenges that can
sometimes go with that — we’re proof that meaningful progress can happen if you
have the entire business and leadership understanding and prioritizing
sustainability. We also had the benefit of strong partnerships to drive momentum
through the years.”
Now looking to the future, KDP is setting more ambitious goals to further
in workers' and farmers'
This includes advancing inclusion by addressing barriers to entry and prosperity
in its supply chain. Additionally, the company is extending its responsible
sourcing commitments into its ever-broadening supply chains.
“We're going to build on the work we've done and the lessons we’ve learned with
coffee farmers over the last 20 years, and apply the successes and learnings
across what is now a much bigger and more diverse company,” Kakos said.
One of KDP’s new commitments is to responsibly source 100 percent of its
cocoa by the end of 2021, along with additional pledges to responsibly
source 100 percent of its priority ingredients — including corn and
apples. Although too early to establish a timeframe for those, KDP is
strategizing what responsibly sourced corn and apples will look like. Each
supply chain is unique; and unlike coffee — which has established third-party
verification organizations such as Rainforest
certification — KDP will have to build its working definition for corn and
apples and then regularly report progress over time.
The one area of interrupted progress was in the company’s goal to responsibly
source its Keurig brewers. At the end of 2020, Keurig brewers were 86 percent
responsibly sourced, as opposed to the goal of 100 percent. The pandemic made
auditing extremely difficult due to facility shutdowns and travel restrictions,
though the Company is confident it will reach its goal in 2021.
“We learned a lot about what we can't control, as well as the importance of open
dialogue and consistent expectations with suppliers over time,” Kakos said.
“We're going to keep a high bar and remain committed to being transparent about
how we're doing and what we're achieving year-on-year.”
KDP understands that packaging waste — particularly plastic
— is a pressing global challenge. That’s why the company has set numerous,
ambitious packaging commitments.
At the close of 2020, 90 percent of KDP's packaging was recyclable or
compostable — progress on a goal of 100 percent of packaging to be recyclable or
compostable by 2025. The most visible marker of that work was the 2020
achievement of KDP’s longstanding commitment to make 100 percent of K-Cup pods
as they are now made of #5 polypropylene plastic — a material that can be
processed in many recycling systems and is in high demand as a recycled
“Our vision is a circular future in which our packaging is recycled and
repurposed to remain in use and out of the environment,” said Charlie
Schwarze, a director of packaging sustainability at KDP. “To accelerate this
shift, we are focused on smart design — which involves the reduction of
materials used and the ability to recycle or compost those materials after use.”
Equally important to closing the loop is incorporating post-consumer recycled
content (PCR) into packaging; and KDP’s goal is 30 percent PCR in its total
packaging portfolio by 2025, reaching 22 percent of that at the end of last
In 2020, the company began producing Core Hydration, 16 oz. Snapple and
500 mL Aquafiel Natural in bottles made of 100 percent recycled polyethylene
terephthalate (rPET) plastic. With those transitions now complete, the company
expects to eliminate approximately 47.5 million pounds of virgin plastic used
annually and will also produce about 30 percent less greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions compared to using virgin plastic — the equivalent of taking 7,700 cars
off the road annually.
In addition to reusing resources for a circular economy, KDP is committed to
reducing its environmental impact — evident through its efforts to support water
and soil health.
By the end of 2020, KDP had
of its cumulative water use in six operating areas facing high water risks.
Recognizing stakeholder dependence on shared resources, the beverage giant works
with key local partners, with an end-goal of replenishing 100 percent of water
use in these areas by 2025. Water efficiency and conservation are just as
important as replenishing at the source, so KDP is on track to improving water
efficiency across its operations by 20 percent by 2025.
KDP also has a forward-looking eye on regenerative agriculture because it
touches on so many foundational points in its corporate responsibility strategy:
water security, healthy and productive soils, climate and livelihoods. As a new
goal this year, KDP aims to
and conservation on 250,000 acres of land, equivalent to half of the area used
to grow KDP priority inputs, by 2030. While much of this land may be outside of
KDP’s supply chain, the goal is to engage as many suppliers in regenerative
practices as possible.
“KDP has an incredibly diverse supply chain supporting it. Regenerative
agriculture as a focus for us makes a lot of sense, because soil is universal
across all of our ingredient supply chains,” Kakos said. “We’re choosing to
prioritize it now because there’s a movement building with
recognition of soil
It's a linchpin topic that's connected to others.”
While it’s clear that regenerative practices will play a pivotal role in supply
chain engagement, standardized metrics and language are lacking; so, an early
focus for KDP is to work with peers and experts to set clear standards. Kakos is
working directly with peers in the Sustainable
Agriculture Initiative Platform to create definitions
and metrics that will help businesses across all markets define and measure
regenerative agriculture impacts.
Consumer health and wellbeing took on a whole new pertinence during 2020. That’s
why KDP worked closely with external health and wellbeing advisors and
collaborated with the Partnership for a Healthier
to develop a new commitment: By 2025, 60 percent of KDP’s product portfolio will
provide “positive hydration,” defined as:
Contains one serving of fruit or vegetable (without added sugar); or
< 40 calories per serving and at least 10 percent Daily Value of a
nutrient to encourage (protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron,
vitamin D or potassium) or a functional attribute (e.g., hydration with
water; antioxidants to help fight cellular damage; immune support with
vitamins A, C, E and zinc; healthy digestive system support with dietary
fiber; energy with caffeine and relaxation with L-theanine).
KDP is the first major beverage company to put forward this type of commitment.
Rather than only focus on sugar reduction, KDP is looking at its entire beverage
portfolio to give consumers more transparency and choice.
KDP’s health and wellbeing focus also extends to its employees and their
families. During 2020's unprecedented health crisis and
for social justice, KDP adapted quickly to provide enhanced health benefits and
implemented stringent safety protocols. The company also accelerated its work in
areas of career development, training, and Diversity &
— which included announcing two new workforce goals: By 2025, KDP will show a 25
percent increase in representation of women and a 25 percent increase in
representation of people of color in leadership positions.
Moreover, KDP launched a formalized D&I initiative structure with executive
sponsorship, strong governance processes, and clear goals and milestones to
measure progress and hold themselves
A big part of that was the introduction of eight executive-supported Employee
Resource Groups that are building connection, fostering community and ensuring
The trials of 2020 exposed the interconnectedness, strengths and weaknesses
across all value chains. Drink Well. Do Good. emerges from 2020’s workbench as
a more meaningful, measured tool demonstrating the resolve of KDP to help
address the world’s most pressing issues.
Published Aug 12, 2021 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Christian is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.