Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee Company, the nation’s second largest non-franchised coffee house chain, announced today that it will support sustainably produced coffee -- and the communities and farms in coffee growing lands -- through a new partnership with the Rainforest Alliance.
Caribou has a plan in place, projecting that by the end of 2008 half of all the coffee purchased by the company will come from Rainforest Alliance Certified sources. An international not-for-profit and third-party certifier, the Rainforest Alliance provides its certification seal to farms meeting the highest standards for the conservation of the natural resources and the rights and welfare of workers and local communities.
"Caribou Coffee’s commitment is unprecedented," explains Rainforest Alliance marketing manager Sabrina Vigilante. "Caribou has direct relationships with the supplier coffee farms and is encouraging, guiding and sometimes financing those farmers to achieve certification."
Caribou will also collaborate with the Rainforest Alliance to identify new farms interested in complying with the group’s sustainable standards.
Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rainforest Alliance comments: "We applaud Caribou Coffee for this outstanding commitment to sustainability. By supporting farmers in achieving Rainforest Alliance certification, Caribou is helping to conserve wildlife and wildlands and to improve the lives of the farm workers, their families and surrounding communities. The company, which has always focused on corporate social responsibility, is now raising the bar for the entire coffee industry."
The rapid expansion of agriculture in the tropics has posed a tremendous threat to forests and is responsible for the contamination of waterways, deforestation and soil erosion in the biodiversity-rich ecosystems where much of the world’s coffee is grown. In response to this problem, the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Agricultural Network (SAN), a coalition of nine independent, nonprofit conservation groups in Latin America, created Rainforest Alliance certification. SAN members, who have an intimate understanding of local culture, ecology, farming traditions and governments, work in concert with the Rainforest Alliance to manage the program.
Certification begins with a preliminary site visit by SAN technicians to determine what changes are necessary. Based on a comprehensive evaluation report, an audit committee determines whether or not the farm merits certification. A written contract governs and monitors the use of the Rainforest Alliance seal and the handling and promotion of certified coffees.
Caribou CEO Michael J. Coles says, "Caribou Coffee strives for excellence in all aspects of the coffee business — from tree to cup. This includes looking out for both the farmers who produce the coffee and the environment in which it is grown. Our partnership with the Rainforest Alliance allows us to take our commitment to agriculturally and socially responsible coffee sourcing to another level."
Caribou Coffee is currently supporting their Guatemalan suppliers in achieving certification. In June 2005, a farm in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala became the first Caribou supplier to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification. Several of Caribou Coffee Company’s coffee supplier partners continue their work toward certification. Furthermore, Caribou will join the Rainforest Alliance on the organization’s first mission to Indonesia, to support the extension of Rainforest Alliance certification to Asian countries.
Caribou’s commitment to backing sustainable farming comes at a time when social and environmental practices in business are almost as important to stakeholders as bottom line profits. "More consumers today want to buy products that they know are not adversely impacting the environment," says Coles. "The certification assures people that they are selecting coffee that is grown to very strict standards, environmentally-friendly standards."
The Rainforest Alliance and SAN members have long recognized that certified farms can be a haven for wildlife, serving as buffer zones around parks and as wildlife corridors between parks. Certification also increases efficiency on farms, reducing costly agricultural inputs and improving management. Workers benefit from a cleaner, safer, more dignified workplace where their rights are respected. Certified farmers have better access to specialty buyers, contract stability, favorable credit options, publicity, technical assistance, and premium markets.