Transforming Business as Usual Along a Supply Chain
Nov 28, 2011 9:15 AM ET
By Colleen Bramhall, Coffee Community Outreach Manager at Green Mountain Coffee RoastersAt Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, our purpose is to create the ultimate coffee experience in every life we touch, from tree to cup – transforming the way the world understands business. We live this creed in every part of our business, and perhaps the most authentic demonstration of this commitment is in our supply chain outreach work. Five percent of GMCR’s pre-tax earnings is channeled into social and environmental programs, and I am responsible for that portion allocated to coffee-producing communities. We make targeted grants to non-profit organizations and coffee cooperatives in our supply chain for programs that reduce poverty and hunger, and support health and environmental sustainability. Currently, we are funding over 85 projects in coffee growing communities with 45 grantee organizations in 15 countries – all with a common goal of improving the quality of life of coffee farmers and their families at the household level. Based on the findings from some unsettling research in Central America, a key area of programming focus is improving food security during the “thin months” after the coffee harvest (for more information, visit www.aftertheharvest.org). The first time I met the team at Sustainable Harvest, I recognized in them a kindred spirit in this “business +” community; and I was not alone: Sustainable Harvest has been a key partner of GMCR’s on both the commercial side of our business and the social responsibility side for several years. Sustainable Harvest’s Relationship Coffee Model means they have an intimate understanding of the coffee producers in their network, and thus can provide critical insight into the needs and opportunities of producers within our shared supply chain. Cooperatives that have received funding from GMCR for social programs have often benefited from Sustainable Harvest’s expertise in and passion for development initiatives. We have engaged Sustainable staff to support several of our suppliers with building organic fertilizer plants that incorporate waste from the coffee harvesting process into a nourishing compost that greatly increase yields for farmers in Peru, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Sustainable has also led an innovative drip irrigation project in Tanzania that serves thriving vegetable gardens, reinforcing food security in these remote communities. Sustainable Harvest’s annual “Let’s Talk Coffee” conference provides a unique space for both GMCR’s coffee buyers and corporate social responsibility team to connect with our suppliers and is exemplary of putting the Relationship Model into practice. I attended Let’s Talk Coffee for the first time this year and felt that I had entered a business utopia – where all members of a supply chain had come together to do business in a spirit of mutual respect, shared advantage, and lasting friendship. This meeting enabled me to connect with representatives from several social projects we are funding, and facilitated conversations with new contacts about opportunities for the future. An air of excitement permeated the conference center as business partners collaborated to build a robust, inclusive, and prosperous relationship that goes beyond business-as-usual and on to creating a bright, interconnected future together.