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Green Mountain Coffee’s CSR Report an Ethical Business Success Story

Leon Kaye | Wednesday March 20th, 2013 | 1 Comment
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Green Mountain Coffee, GMCR, sustainability, sustainability report, corporate social responsibility, waste diversion, coffee, fair trade, employee engagement, recycling, composting, Leon kaye, supply chain, grounds to grow on

GMCR’s HQ in Burlington, VT

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) has been churning out cups of java for over three decades and has grown as a leading example of a sustainable business. The Vermont-based company, which employs 5,800 people and has annual sales approaching $4 billion, released its eighth annual sustainability report this week–and demonstrates the company’s commitment to the farthest reaches of its supply chain and the communities in which it operates.

Currently GMCR’s sustainability agenda rests on three pillars: supply chain, sustainable products and communities. The most recent sustainability report details the company’s successes and shortcomings during FY2012. While sales have surged, GMCR has worked closer with suppliers and expanded its offerings of sustainable coffee products. And while GMCR has a strong reputation for ethics and doing good in the communities in which it works, the company is doing things right internally as well with an employee retention rate of 90 percent.

Some of GMCR’s highlights from the past year include:

Fair trade expansion: The world’s largest supplier of fair trade certified coffee has led GMCR to fund a variety of farmer outreach projects across the globe. Last year GMCR invested $10.5 million in supply chain initiatives. And 20,000 families received increased food security as the result of GMCR’s various programs. The results have been a meteoric rise in the company’s purchase of coffee with ethical certifications from 2.9 million pounds in 2003 to 66.4 million pounds last year. And GMCR has launched a bevy of creative programs to instill better farming practices across the globe.

Take back programs for recycling and composting: Much of GMCR’s business comes from its lucrative commercial delivery service to businesses. And part of the company’s growth is due to those pesky coffee pods, which at first glance are as wasteful as they are convenient. But via GMCR’s “Grounds to Grow On” program, business customers using the company’s Keurig machines can collect used K-Cup packs and return them to a waste diversion partner. As a result GMCR estimates 4.1 million pods were recovered with 85,000 pounds of coffee grounds ending up composted.

Employee engagement: As GMCR grows, as does community involvement among its employees. A GMCR employee has up to 52 paid hours annually he or she can use to volunteer for the community organization of choice. As a result the average number of hours volunteered per full time employee spiked 25 percent between 2011 and 2012–and the total amount of volunteer hours more than doubled last year.

Room for improvement? GMCR admitted some waste reduction projects ended up with mixed results, although composting overall has increased dramatically. And one processing plant in California could not meet its energy efficiency target. But overall, GMCR has shown it can couple growth with environmental and social responsibility.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable BrandsInhabitat and Earth911. Most recently he explored children’s health issues in India with the International Reporting Project. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

[Image credit of GMCR’s Burlington, VT HQ: Leon Kaye]


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  • Tanya

    Improvement needed: The not-green “diversion” of GMCR’s Keurig machine K-Cup packs is not sustainable.

    GMRC needs a packaging redesign to bring them away from non-renewable resources and towards sustainability.

    Pretending that the collection and burning of non-recyclable plastic waste is green is a step backwards for GMCR, detracting from their real sustainability efforts. No amount of feeble euphemisms or qualifications will help them.