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Folgers Announces Three-Tiered Strategy for Increasing Sustainable Coffee Sourcing

Smucker’s, the parent brand of Folgers Coffee, announced several steps to address climate risk to its coffee business, which represents 40 percent of company revenues.

The company said it will buy 10 percent of its coffee from certified sources by 2016. The Smucker’s 2012 corporate responsibility report also outlines a partnership with the Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung Foundation to focus on agronomy training, organizational development, and climate change adaptation strategies in order to improve the farming conditions, yields, and incomes of small-scale coffee farming families. A separate partnership with World Coffee Research will focus on “the science of coffee” in order to develop hybrid varieties using classic breeding techniques.

As a result of these announcements, Trillium Asset Management and Calvert Investment Management have formally withdrawn a 2012 shareholder proposal requesting quantitative goals for certified coffee purchases and a method for evaluating the challenges of climate change to the company. A variation of the proposal was first filed in the spring of 2011 and received 30% of shareholder votes.

The two investment management firms praised Smucker's for taking important first steps, but urged the company to go further by explaining how it selected the 10 percent goal and how it can make continuous performance improvements to increase the target. Additionally, the investors would like to see disclosure regarding suppliers, industry organizations, outside experts, and non-government organizations that Smucker’s is working with; and how these initiatives are linked to the long-term financial prosperity of the company.

Earlier this year, Lloyd Bernhardt, CEO of Ethical Bean Coffee, wrote about the challenges of communicating sustainability in the coffee industry, and Caribou Coffee announced that it now sources 100 percent of its coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms,

Bart King is a PR/marketing communications consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications.

Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also Associate Editor of Sponsored Content for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_king [Read more about Bart King]

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