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Mary Mazzoni headshot

Dunkin’ Donuts Pledges to Help Coffee Growers Adapt to Climate Change

By Mary Mazzoni


As several countries mark International Coffee Day this Saturday, September 29, it’s important to remember our favorite morning brew is one of the most traded commodities in the world, and farming it allows 25 million families in more than 60 countries to make a living. Yet experts say climate change will pose an increasing risk to coffee crops.

By 2050, growing areas suitable for the world’s most popular coffee strain—Arabica—will drop by up to 70 percent in some key coffee-producing regions, the BBC reports. A warming climate could also exacerbate pests such as the dreaded coffee berry borer, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Such stark changes not only threaten your morning cup of Joe, but also put millions of livelihoods at risk. Smallholder farmers, who produce roughly 70 percent of the world’s coffee, will be forced to adapt in order to maintain their way of life.

To that end, global coffee giant Dunkin’ Donuts and National DCP, a $2 billion supply chain management company serving Dunkin’ franchisees, are launching a new partnership to protect the global coffee supply while supporting farmers.

The companies pledged to donate up to $2 million to World Coffee Research (WCR), a nonprofit collaborative research and development program for the global coffee industry, over the next five years. California-based WRC focuses on coffee genetics with the aim of developing more resilient strains that can better withstand weather extremes, as well as pest and disease problems that may increase due to climate change.

“With rising temperatures and more [frequent] extreme weather, the need to make coffee plants more resilient to threats like diseases and droughts has never been more urgent,” Tim Schilling, CEO of World Coffee Research, said in a statement.

Dunkin’s investment will move in increments, as the company donates a price percentage of every pound of Original Blend coffee beans sold to its franchisees. WRC has similar deals with other large coffee suppliers through its CheckOff Program, but Dunkin’s pledge makes the company one of the nonprofit’s largest donors to date.

“We are excited to support the work being done by World Coffee Research benefiting farmers around the world and shoring up long-term supply assurance for our franchisee cooperative members,” Matt Daks, director of strategic sourcing for coffee and tea at National DCP, said in a statement. “Through WCR’s CheckOff Program, we can help combat the impacts of climate change, develop more vibrant, vigorous, varietals and ensure farmers can grow healthier trees, resulting in better quality and higher volumes.”

WRC’s work in coffee genetics not only safeguards supply chains for large purveyors like Dunkin’, but also protects livelihoods by providing coffee farmers with better, higher revenue-earning varieties.   

The social element does not appear to be lost on Dunkin’. “As a leading coffee retailer, we have a responsibility to protect the commodities we source, and the farmers and producers whose livelihoods depend upon them,” said Karen Raskopf, chief communications and sustainability officer for Dunkin’ Brands, which owns both Dunkin’ Donuts and ice cream icon Baskin Robbins.

As a leading coffee retailer that sells 80 cups of the stuff every second, Dunkin’ is in a position to make a huge impact on the way the commodity is sourced and sold—and coffee sustainability is top of the list when it comes to the company’s corporate responsibility initiatives.

Dunkin’ continues to expand its work with the Rainforest Alliance, and all espresso beverages served in the U.S. and approximately 16 international markets were made with 100 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified beans as of last year. Dunkin’ and National DCP are also working to certify all of the brand’s Dark Roast Coffee through the Rainforest Alliance—meaning supplier farms meet rigorous standards regarding biodiversity and natural resource conservation, as well as farmer well-being. In European markets, which consume the largest share of the world’s coffee by far, Dunkin’ restaurants also serve Fair Trade certified espresso.

On the environmental side, earlier this year Dunkin’ announced plans to phase out its infamous foam coffee cups, which are difficult to recycle. The company will swap in a new, double-walled paper cup that’s already in use in most of its international markets and will reach its entire retail portfolio by 2020. The switch will remove nearly 1 billion foam cups from the waste stream annually, though “the new cups' recyclability will vary by city, state and municipality,” the company told Treehugger in February.

Image credit: The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) via Flickr

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni