With a purpose to, “…create the ultimate beverage experience in every life we touch from source to cup – transforming the way the world understands business,” Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (Keurig) has operated as a leader in specialty coffee for more than 35 years. Committed to delivering exceptional coffee, the company’s innovative Keurig® brewers and K-Cup® pods are found in more than 20 million homes and businesses throughout North America.
Founded on Social Responsibility
Since its founding, Keurig has made a commitment to use the power of business to “brew a better world,” through building “resilient supply chains, sustainable products, thriving communities, and a water-secure world.” As the largest producer of single-serve coffee pods in the U.S. and Canada, the company is s also committed to addressing environmental responsibility, including consumer concerns about recycling challenges
associated with K-Cup pods. Keurig has been working towards a holistic recyclable solution since 2009. In 2014, Keurig began partnering with recycling organizations to explore how to make the both K-Cup pods recyclable and ensure that they will have a second life, with the goal of having 100% of the pods recyclable by the end of 2020.
“Building collaborations with organizations such as NERC is important to help connect us with material management experts. Through collaboration we are working to ensure that the new Keurig recyclable K-Cup pods are successfully recycled and made into new products,” said Courtney Hadden, Partnership Manager, Sustainability at Keurig. “And, we’re proud that we’ve already made significant steps to transition to a recyclable K-Cup pod well before our 2020 goal.”
In June 2016, the first recyclable K-Cup® pods started rolling off the production lines and a selection of Green Mountain Coffee® varieties are now in a recyclable format. Keurig is now working to transition more than 100 manufacturing lines across its seven North American production facilities to produce recyclable K-Cup® pods for all Keurig® brands, increasing production each year to reach its goal of having 100% of its pods recyclable by the end of 2020.
The recyclable K-Cup® pods are made from polypropylene (#5 plastic), commonly used in yogurt and butter containers. Keurig employees consulted with plastics experts and determined that polypropylene could effectively meet the company’s high product quality demands, be recyclable in a majority of communities, and continue to have a strong end-market value. According to a 2016 study, polypropylene containers are acceptable in approximately 70% of communities in the United States.
The company is working not only to address the recyclability of its plastic pods, but also to address the challenges and opportunities related to the polypropylene market by collaborating with recycling organizations to improve end-market demand for reclaimed materials. In order to ensure effective recycling, the recyclable K-Cup® pods have been given the “real world” test in materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to see what really happens when the pods enter a facility, work that was recognized by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition in April 2017.
Beyond the Quality of the Cup
Keurig was been named among the 100 most reputable companies in the U.S. by the Reputation Institute’s 2017 US RepTrak® 100 ranking, and in April 2017 was awarded the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s Innovator Award for Breakthrough Process. Bob Gamgort, Chief Executive Officer at Keurig, credits these honors not only to the company’s innovative and popular products, but also to their resolution to “brew a better world.” He states, “[f]or us, delivering the ultimate coffee experience goes beyond the quality in the cup. From reducing our environmental impact and promoting a resilient supply chain, to engaging with local communities and empowering our employees, we strive to make a positive impact on all our stakeholders and our natural world through our business.”
Indeed, beyond recycling, Keurig’s sustainability commitments include Clean Water for Everyone. The goal of is to restore to the environment the volume of water used in Keurig beverages, through projects that focus on enhancing watersheds, protecting habitats, and conserving water. Thus far, the company has announced it has already restored more than 524 million gallons
through projects in the United States. In addition to these projects, the company supported development of the Clean Water Roadmap in Vermont in its home state of Vermont.
Keurig also has strong an interest in the sustainability of its supply chain. Keurig’s Responsible Sourcing Supplier Guidelines aims to foster social and environmental responsibility in its own operations and those of its suppliers. “(Supply chain) operations should be conducted in a manner that respects the health and safety of employees and communities,” the guidelines state; and, “Businesses should incorporate environmental sustainability into their operations.” Keurig’s 2020 targets include sourcing 100% of its primary agricultural and manufactured products according to these sourcing supplier guidelines. The company also aims to engage with one million people in its supply chains to significantly improve their livelihoods, including water security and climate resilience. As of January 2017, Keurig has engaged over 417,000 people in its supply chain programs.