Corporate coffee: How much is eco-certified?

by on January 16, 2012

How much eco-certified coffee is purchased by the big coffee companies?

In late 2010, I posted data on how little sustainably-grown coffee was purchased by the world’s major coffee buyers.  The post utilized mostly 2008 data, much of which came from a terrific publication, The Coffee Barometer 2009, which was put out by the Tropical Commodity Coalition. Unfortunately, TCC has now disbanded. They published a final Coffee Barometer, the 2012 edition1, which provides 2010 figures. I have updated the table below with new numbers from this report as well as other sources. I will be maintaining this table with periodic updates, using the methods described below.

Latest update April 2014


I’m going to focus on the three major world buyers (Nestlé, Kraft, and JM Smuckers), followed by the other buyers with top U.S. market share (Starbucks, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters). I will also include Caribou Coffee, the second-largest U.S. coffeehouse. Other players, some of which were mentioned in the previous post, are primarily European, or the data is not disclosed or difficult to uncover. I have removed Sara Lee/Douwe Egberts since it has divested itself of North American coffee operations, much of which was absorbed by Smuckers.

I’m going to consider eco-certifications or standards only: Rainforest Alliance and organic; since Smithsonian Bird-Friendly is produced in such tiny volumes and must be certified organic, it is included in the organic category. I also note Starbucks CAFE Standards. Although it only applies to Starbucks coffee, it includes good environmental criteria.  I’ll disregard coffee purchased under Fair Trade and the 4C Code, neither of which have strong/meaningful environmental standards. I’ll mention but not count towards percentages Utz Certified and Nespresso’s AAA Program. You can read about all of these certifications and criteria on my certifications guide page.

Data sources will be linked (2008 data sources are in the previous post), or included in the footnotes. I’ve converted volumes to metric tons for comparison; some volumes and percentages are calculated or extrapolated from closely related figures.

Brands owned include Nescafé, Nespresso, Taster’s Choice, Clasico.
2008: 780,000 tons
2010: 870,000 tons1 (49,020 tons was Nespresso2)
2013: 870,000 tons9
2010: 2000 tons Fair Trade, Utz, Rainforest Alliance, and/or organic1 (0.2%), see note.
Nestlé offers no organic varieties, so their small amount of certified purchases may not include organic; nor does Fair Trade certification have notable ecological criteria.

In their 2011 "Creating Shared Value" report4, the company noted, "There are no plans to market certified coffee to consumers... We believe that our own Responsible Sourcing platform...offers a more targeted approach than certification alone."

In the previous post, I noted 13,000 tons (or 1.7%) were purchased under their proprietary Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality program. For what it's worth, in June 2011, Nespresso reported2 it sourced 28,911 tons under the AAA program in 2010. This represents 3.5% of Nestlé's total purchases.

Unfortunately, the criteria or standards for this program are not publicly available. They were developed in cooperation with Rainforest Alliance, but Nespresso states that their program was developed to improve quality, while Rainforest Alliance standards focus on protecting the environment. Nespresso has indicated that they are now working to help groups of farmers get Rainforest Alliance certification so the farmers can get more money for the coffee they choose not to sell to Nespresso3(my emphasis added).

In August 2011, The Nescafé Plan was announced. The goal is to source 180,000 tons of coffee directly from farmers by 2015 that will be 4C compliant (read about these very marginal standards here). Another 90,000 tons of Nescafé coffee will be sourced under Rainforest Alliance principals (not certification) by 2020.
Mondelēz International (Kraft)
Brands owned include Yuban, Maxwell House, General Foods International Coffee, Gevalia, Kenco, Maxim, Tassimo, Nabob, and Sanka.
2008: 740,000 tons
2010: 700,000 tons1
2008: 29,500 tons Rainforest Alliance (4%)
2010: 50,000 tons Rainforest Alliance (7%)
2012: 52,000 tons Rainforest Alliance
Some coffees are organic, so either some of the Rainforest Alliance total is also organic, or there is some additional volume certified organic only.

A company split divided Kraft's coffee brands between Kraft (Maxwell House) and most European brands to Mondelēz International.

Mondelēz has committed to sustainably sourcing 100% of all European coffee brands, including Rainforest Alliance for European and Canadian brands, by 2015. See also theirCoffee Made Happy initiative.
JM Smuckers
Brands owned include Folgers (#1 brand in U.S.) and Millstone; Kava; Dunkin Donuts grocery store coffee; Rowland Coffee (Café Bustelo and Café Pilon); Sara Lee's former North American foodservice coffee operations including Java Coast.
2008: 280,000 tons
2010: 250,000 tons1
2008: 1,500 tons (0.5%) was certified either Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, and/or organic.
2010: Data not disclosed. See note.
Smuckers' purchases of various coffee brands now make up the largest portion of the company's product sales. In addition to buying hardly any certified coffee of any sort, Smuckers has the essentially the worst sustainability initiative and reporting of all major coffee companies. The TCC1 notes, "[Smucker's] seems to lack a clear and concise CSR stategy, ... does not provide verifiable procurement figures of certified coffees, has no specific goals for a more sustainable coffee sector, and its future commitment is extremely vague."
Starbucks Includes Seattle's Best and Torrefazione Italia brands.2008: 175,000 tons
2010: 122,000 tons
2011: 193,776 tons
2012: 247,208 tons
2013: 179,623 tons
2008: 4,500 tons organic (2.6%); 120,500 tons under their CAFE Practices (68.8%). I gave a combined total of 71.4%, but some may overlap.
2010: 4000 tons organic1 (3.3%) plus 103,000 tons (84%) under CAFE Practices.
2011: 15558 tons Fair Trade (8%), 4354 tons organic (2.2%), 166,648 tons under CAFE Practices
2012: 222,487 tons (90%) under CAFE Practices, 20,140 tons under Fairtrade, and 3946 under organic.
2013: 170,462 under CAFE Practices (94.9%). Another 0.4% had some other certification, with some coffee having multiple verifications: organic (1996 tons, 1.1%) and/or Fairtrade (15,150 tons, 8.4%)
The environmental standards of Starbucks CAFE Practices preferred buyer program are more detailed and stronger than many third-party certifications, including Fair Trade and UTZ Certified. See also my post on recent CAFE Practices assessment reports.

The TCC report1 indicates Starbucks purchased 135,000 tons; I used the figure that came directly from the company website.

The TCC1 notes, "Starbucks appears to be far and away the best in terms of sustainable coffee procurement [of the top ten buyers]..."
Keurig Green Mountain
Brands include Timothy's World Coffee, Tully's, Diedrich, Coffee People, Gloria Jean's, Van Houtte, and Newman's Own.
20075:15,030 tons
20085: 18,439 tons
20095: 22,282 tons
20116: 90,333
20127: 93,728
20138: 97,813
20075: 3170 Fair Trade/organic (21%)
20085: 4133 Fair Trade/organic (22.4%)
20095: 5006 tons organic (22.5%).
20116: 8098 Rainforest Alliance + 12,224 organic = 20322 (22.5%)
20127: 7030 Rainforest Alliance + 6 organic + 13148 Fair Trade/organic = 20184 (21.5%)
20138: 4804 Rainforest Alliance + 19 organic + ~22431 Fair Trade/organic = 27254 (27.9%)
In 2012, KGM/GMCR stopped breaking out their Fair Trade Organic (FTO) and Fair Trade non-organic figures. I was able to get the breakdown in 2012, but estimated it in 2013 based on 2012's ratio.
Caribou Coffee2010: 9100 tons2010: 9100 tons Rainforest Alliance (100%)
Caribou is the first major coffeehouse to source 100% Rainforest Alliance (or any eco-certified) coffee. See this post for details.

Caribou was acquired by Joh. A. Benckiser Group (JAB), a private German holding company, in late 2012. JAB also owns Peet's Coffee & Tea.

As a point of reference, world coffee production in 2010 was over 8 million metric tons. Sixteen percent of that is produced under various sustainability initiatives (including those I didn’t put in the report, such as Fair Trade, 4C verified, and Nespresso AAA), but only 9% gets sold under one of these labels1.


1Tropical Commodity Coalition, Coffee Barometer 2012.
2Nestlé Nespresso Ecolaboration Progress Report, June 2011.
3Accelerating progress on the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program in Central America. March 2011.
4Nestlé Creating Shared Value Report 2011 — PDF.
5Brewing a Better World. Transformation. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Corporate Responsibility Report, FY ’09 – PDF.
6Together We Can. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Corporate Responsibility Report, FY ’11 – PDF.
7Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Sustainability Report, FY ’12
8 Keurig Green Mountain Sustainability web section and Key Data Summary page
9 Nestlé stated in its 2013 Creating Shared Value report (PDF)  that it buys 10% of the world’s coffee production. In 2013, that figure was a little over 8.7 million tons; figure converted from world production figures from the International Coffee Organization.

See also:
Starbucks Global Responsibility Report 2012 (PDF) and 2013 (PDF)


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Revised on April 14, 2014

Posted in Certifications,Corporate coffee,Data summary tables

Tropical Commodity Coalition February 3, 2012 at 11:25 am

Thank you for your interest in our TCC Coffee Barometers. You are correct in the fact that the Tropical Commodity Coalition has been closed down since last week. Though we have published our last report ‘Coffee Barometer 2012′ with the latest figures available. Please contact me to recieve this last report, so the above story can be replenished.

Celia Marsh March 30, 2012 at 5:44 am

please could i receive this last report

JACraves March 30, 2012 at 6:34 am

The report is now available on the TCC web site.

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