Volume 21 | Issue 2 | Year 2018

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A leader in sustainable development and environmental initiatives, Keurig Canada is a unit of Keurig Green Mountain, which offers a wide range of coffee, teas and other single serve hot beverages used in Keurig® brewers for consumers and business.

Keurig Green Mountain is the only company that delivers a total coffee system—from sourcing to roasting to brewing. Keurig® brewers and single serve hot beverages are in more than 20 million homes and offices throughout North America. In under a minute, Keurig® brewers consistently and conveniently deliver a fresh-brewed, great tasting cup with just the push of a button. Equally important to brewing coffee, Keurig aims to brew a better world through its commitment to building more resilient supply chains, sustainable products and thriving socially conscious communities.

“Sustainability is our DNA,” explains Cynthia Shanks, director of communications and sustainability of Keurig Canada. “It defines our total approach to this business, from responsible sourcing to roasting to delivering the perfect cup. The latest example of our journey towards achieving total waste across our supply chain is a to make a fully recyclable K-Cup® pod.” Used in Keurig brewers to produce a single cup of coffee, the first recyclable pod was introduced in 2016. “Our goal is to convert all of its pods to recyclable material in Canada by the end of 2018 and in the United States by 2020,” Shanks says.

Original K-Cup® pods are classified as “#7 – OTHER” because the cup is made from a multi-layer blend of plastic and additional attached material that is not accepted by many plastic recyclers. The recyclable K-Cup pod is made out of polypropylene, a #5 recyclable plastic that not only performs well in Keurig brewers, but is considered most desirable by community recycling programs. “It can be put in the blue bin the same as similar recyclable plastics,” Caroline Losson, vice president of marketing, points out. “We put a lot of effort not only in product design, but in working with the recyclable infrastructure to determine what material not only had the highest market value, but would also be the most friendly and convenient for both consumers and recyclers. The next step we are looking to take is to put in place a system where we can recover used K-Cup pods and remake them into new ones. That would close the loop to provide a complete end-to-end solution.”

Better to be Single

She adds, “In fact, single serve Keurig brewers are already more energy efficient than other traditional coffeemakers. There’s actually more water wasted in making a pot of coffee that there is in making a single cup using our system.” According to an independent 2015 Quantis Canada report prepared for the Packaging Consortium (PAC™), “Overall, the single-serve best case scenario posts a better environmental performance than the drip-brew system.” The advantage is attributable to three inter-related factors:

  • Single serve uses an exact serving in a controlled process and consequently minimizes water and coffee waste.
  • Consumers tend to make more than they actually drink with conventional drip brewed coffee; frequently unused coffee goes down the kitchen sink drain.
  • Conventional brewing systems use a hot plate to keep coffee warm, which consumes more energy.

This may be news to some consumers who may feel single cup serving is wasteful, even if highly convenient. Which is why consumer education is essential to any sustainability program—it defeats the purpose of a recyclable pod if users were to simply toss it away in the trash out of habit.

“Needless to say, it doesn’t help the environment to make a recyclable product if consumers aren’t educated to actually recycle,” Shanks explains, “We’re developing campaigns and other consumer communications to explain that you can now simply dispose of your used K-Cup pods along with your other recyclable plastics, like yogurt cups, butter containers, travel shampoo and pill bottles.”

Community Building

Community building is as entwined in Keurig’s DNA as its sustainability commitment; in fact, the two go hand-in-hand. One example is Keurig Canada’s more than 15 year support of the Old Brewery Mission, an organization that provides Montreal’s homeless with an array of support programs and services. The Mission recently renamed its café on Saint-Laurent Blvd. that provides homeless men and women with free coffee and internet access the “Café Mission Keurig®.” The company lends its brewers and K-Cup pods, as well as donating coffee for the cafeteria’s percolator. In addition, the company notes that providing excess inventory to the café helps reduce its environmental impact.

The majority of Keurig employees volunteer in some sort of community program, which in many cases have an environmental improvement focus. This includes annual participation in Earth Day activities, as well as ongoing tree planting activities.

The company also sponsors trips to coffee-farming communities around the world to obtain a better understanding of coffee production and green practices. Keurig also invests in programs to improve farming techniques and production, address water scarcity and the effects of climate change, and strengthen farmer organizations. In fiscal 2016, 25 percent of it sourced coffee was sustainably certified and 73 percent was traceable— its goal by 2020 is to source 100 percent of all its agricultural and manufactured products according to its own responsible sourcing guidelines, which adhere to all international standards regarding migrant workers, child labor, business integrity, the rights of indigenous people and raw materials sourcing.

“As a company, we’re always working to minimize our carbon footprint wherever possible, “Losson says. “For example, our delivery trucks are now equipped with sophisticated GPS systems to map out the shortest routes to minimize fuel consumption and emissions.”

Equally important to promoting a better environment is providing one for its employees. Indeed, Keurig Canada was named one of Canada’s top 100 employers as measured by physical workplace; work atmosphere and social; health, financial and family benefits; vacation and time off; employee communications; performance management; training and skills development; and community involvement. According to a corporate press release, “Keurig not only aims to steadily innovate with its products and services, but also with its working environment, especially for its young employees…Keurig knows that its people — and particularly its young employees—are key to its success and to fulfilling its mission. Their awareness of the importance of sustainable development is perfectly aligned with the type of innovation and leadership that Keurig wants to foster.”

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