Beverage brand Vita Coco Co.’s certification in late February as a B Corporation is not only a recognition of the company’s dedication to conducting its business as a force for good, but it also highlights the power consumers can have to effect change.
“If you’re a consumer, you have a lot of power. The decisions that you make in the store or online affects more than just you,” Jane Prior, Vita Coco's chief marketing officer, told TriplePundit.
Businesses can be certified as B Corporations after the nonprofit B Lab conducts a rigorous review of operations and their business model’s impact on workers, customers, communities and the environment. A company must meet a minimum verified score on B Lab’s impact assessment to be certified.
“We’ve always been on a mission to create more equitable access to natural, better-for-you products in a responsible way,” said Mike Kirban, Vita Coco’s founder and co-CEO, in a public statement. “Joining a network of like-minded organizations will create collective impact to democratize health and wellness. We are honored to receive this distinction and become part of the B Corp community.”
The Vita Coco Project is the centerpiece of the company’s efforts to have a positive impact on farming communities in the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ecuador where it sources ingredients for its signature coconut water and other beverages. Through the project, the company says it has built more than 30 classrooms, distributed more than 25,000 coconut seedlings to smallholder farms, and increased grower incomes by more than 260 percent in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
At the same time, Vita Coco’s plant-based energy brand, Runa, partners with the Indigenous Kichwa community of Ecuador to source caffeine-producing guayusa leaves in addition to the planting of 1.2 million trees, according to the project's website. The project’s ambition is to have a positive impact on 1 million people living and working within farming communities worldwide.
Prior told 3p that the coconut farming communities with which Vita Coco works are “incredibly innovative and diligent” but lack sufficient resources, and their remote locations often have deficient infrastructure, outdated farming practices and a shortage of schools.
On the ground, Vita Coco partners with HOPE, a social enterprise and the first B Corp in the Philippines, and Silvermill, an agribusiness group based in Sri Lanka that supports sustainable farming practices.
“Through our partnerships with HOPE and Silvermill, we advance education opportunities for children in the Philippines and Sri Lanka by building over 30 safe classrooms for K-12 education,” Prior said. “By equipping the families of coconut farmers with access to safe and fun schooling environments, we are helping to offset the classroom deficit and invest in their futures with our local on-the-ground partners.”
The Vita Coco Project’s website cites two success stories from coconut farmers in Sarangani Province on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Diascora Martin is regarded as one of the project’s most successful farmers, who in a few years has managed to boost her income by 30 percent. This has enabled Martin to expand her farming to include rejuvenated coffee trees and vegetables. She was also able to send her teenaged son to high school instead of having him work on the farm. Abundio and Mimi Bacquiano have seen their family’s annual income increase by 12 percent, allowing them to invest in their youngest child’s college tuition, as well as livestock and a commercial herb garden for their local community.
“HOPE’s access to smallholder farmers in Philippine communities where Vita Coco is manufactured, 60 percent of which live below the poverty line, presented a unique opportunity to not only improve the farmers’ livelihood, but also support the communities as a whole,” Nanette Medved-Po, HOPE’s founder and CEO, told TriplePundit. “Projects like these force us to focus on offering a helping hand to those who are left behind, not due to lack of desire, but due to a lack of opportunity. Together, HOPE and the Vita Coco Project bring hope for the future, and security and dignity for our community.”
Prior said the Vita Coco Project expresses the brand’s commitment “to doing right by people and the planet."
“We partner with our coconut farming communities to encourage long-term sustainable growth in the regions we source from,” she added. “Through our community-led approach with HOPE, we bring our ‘Give, Grow, Guide’ philosophy to life to help coconut farmers increase their annual yield, diversify their crops and grow their coconuts efficiently and sustainably.”
Decisions by consumers help to propel these efforts forward, Prior said.
“By participating in the economy and creating demand for the products you enjoy, like coconut water, you can effect positive change,” Prior explained. “When you choose ethical brands, you help scale programs like the Vita Coco Project to build a thriving community of coconut growers.”
Vita Coco’s certification as a B Corp comes less than a year after it announced its incorporation as a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC).
Image credit: Jakob Owens via Unsplash
Gary E. Frank is a writer with more than 30 years of experience encompassing journalism, marketing, media relations, speech writing, university communications and corporate communications.