Green Mountain Coffee & Environmental Responsibility

In a time and age when 'environmentally responsible' has become the latest buzzword in marketing for many corporations, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters of Vermont is refreshingly different and sincere. For Green Mountain, social and environmental responsibility is not a trendy marketing move. It is a key concept that has been part of the company's core commitment and values from the time when it was housed in a tiny storefront cafe. The company considers itself a steward, responsible for helping to preserve the Earth's natural resources for future generations and their history of socially responsible business and corporate decisions reflect their commitment to making the world a better place for us all.

For 25 years, we have been on a deliberate journey to create and sustain a values-driven company that views profit as a means to achieve a higher purpose.

Thus begins Green Mountain Coffee Roaster's statement of corporate responsibility. That higher purpose is, simply stated, to leave the world a better place for having been here. Green Mountain has taken that commitment seriously, starting small and growing their responsibility to the planet as the company has grown. In an open letter written in 2006, Green Mountain president Bob Stiller talked about the evolution of that commitment, starting as early as 1983, when the little cafe in Rutland, Vermont decided that composting was a socially conscious decision - and the right thing to do. In 1984, the employees - less than ten at the time - began informally taking on environmental projects, including a recycling program. In 1986, Green Mountain introduced its first Organic coffee, and in 1989, the company's Environmental Committee developed Earth-Friendly coffee filters that are dioxin free.

Fair Trade and Sustainable Coffee

Over the years, Green Mountain and their corporate officers have made decisions in keeping with the company's overall mission. Each step on the path may have seemed small at the time, but each step has built on the ones that came before to make Green Mountain Coffee Roasters one of the most socially responsible companies in the world. In fact, Green Mountain has been named one of the Top 100 Most Socially Conscious Corporations by Business, Inc. for two years running. The company's production plant has been certified organic since 1997, and they remain committed to offering high quality, completely organically grown coffee as a major part of their offerings.

In addition to their commitment to organically grown coffee, Green Mountain supports sustainable coffee production methods as a member of Fair Trade associations. Currently, Green Mountain offers 45 different Fair Trade certified coffees, accounting for over 20% of their sales. By contrast, Green Mountain's largest competitor in the specialty coffee business, Starbucks, called itself Fair Trade friendly in 2001, when only 1% of the coffees that the company bought were Fair Trade certified. Five years later, Starbucks had only managed to increase the Fair Trade percentage of their coffee sales to 6%.

Fair Trade is important in the discussion of environmental responsibility because coffee growers who are certified with the Fair Trade label have made a commitment to using environmentally friendly and sustainable growing methods, despite the fact that those methods yield less coffee per acre. In return, they are guaranteed a price for their coffee beans that provides a fair wage for their labor. By committing their resources to buying Fair Trade certified coffees, Green Mountain essentially has put their money where their mouth is to support the most viable method of encouraging global change in the coffee market.

Responsible Energy Use, and More

Green Mountain does not confine its stewardship policies to coffee sourcing and production, though. The company's earliest efforts at being environmentally responsible were decisions to compost waste and recycle materials, and over the years, the corporation has continued to make responsible energy and conservation decisions. Green Mountain tries to use renewable energy sources when possible, and offsets their use of carbon fossil fuels by buying renewable energy credits from a variety of sources. Their efforts and purchases help support the development of alternative energy sources like the wind power technology being developed by Vermont's Native Energy company.

In a similar manner, Green Mountain's recognition that disposable coffee cups lead to increased solid waste led to the company's development of an eco-friendly disposable paper coffee cup. Unlike most coffee cups, which use petroleum products for water-proofing, the Green Mountain cups are made entirely of natural and renewable materials. Green Mountain estimates that their new cups have kept over half a million pounds of petrochemicals out of landfills so far. The accomplishment has been recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, who awarded the 2007 Sustainability Award to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

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About The Author, Stephanie Larkin