Texan by Nature is excited to recognize Farmer Brothers as a 2021 TxN 20 honoree for their leadership in conservation and sustainability. Farmer Brothers’ commitment to conservation, their projects/programs, best practices, and lessons learned are an example and inspiration for us all.
Honoree Industry and Size: Food, Beverage, & Grocery – Mid
Headquartered in Northlake Texas, Farmer Brothers is a leading national coffee roaster, wholesaler and distributor of coffee, tea, and culinary products. Farmer Brother’s product lines include organic, Direct Trade, and sustainably produced coffee, delivering extensive beverage planning services and culinary products to its U.S. based customers that range from small independent restaurants and foodservice operators to large institutional buyers. As demonstrated by years of investment in sustainable practices, Farmer Brothers has stayed true to its guiding principles around service, quality and corporate responsibility, supporting the long-term relationships the company has built over the years with coffee growers, partners and customers. We continue to build sustainable practices into the fabric of the organization, from coffee farmers and producers at origin while enforcing transparency throughout the supply chain.
What is Farmer Brothers’ conservation and sustainability mission, and why is it important to your culture?
Farmer Brothers breaks down our approach to sustainability and conservation with social, environmental, and economic development (SEED) as our framework. We believe that each of these goals are so closely intertwined that if one were to be removed, then the others will not be successful. As the threat of climate change continues to rise, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we’re doing what it takes to cut down on our emissions and work side-by-side with growers at the origin to help combat the effects of rising global temperatures. Coffee is our center point of business, and because coffee crops can be sensitive to changing temperatures, we’ve partnered with organizations like the World Coffee Research (WCR) team to contribute to strengthening the future of coffee crops. We not only want to strengthen the future of coffee plants, but also want to protect the land and ecosystems where we do business, both nationally and internationally. Protecting these ecosystems means we need to be determined to cut back on our emissions and pollution so we can keep our business growing, while still providing a high-quality product to our customers.
How is conservation and sustainability a part of Farmer Brothers’ business strategy?
Our SEED framework is our guide to incorporating conservation and sustainability into our business practices and strategies. As a coffee company, our business relies on the future of this crop, and as a large producer of coffee products, we need to focus on cutting back our emissions that impact the climate crisis. Using SEED allows us to hold ourselves accountable when working towards our goals of becoming zero waste (diverting 90% of waste from the landfill), achieving our science-based targets to cut back on our emissions, and giving growers the tools to utilize sustainable practices through our direct trade program, Project D.I.R.E.C.T.. We’re always exploring new ways for Farmer Brothers to be better stewards of sustainability and conservation, preserving the future of coffee and the places where it has an impact.
“We are deeply honored to earn this distinction from Texan by Nature for the third year. Sustainability is one of our core values and it’s gratifying to be recognized by our home community for that work. We have a great team of high quality people, who do high quality work to produce high quality products while protecting the planet, and that is what makes us sustainable.”
– Deverl Maserang, CEO, Farmer Brothers
What are Farmer Brothers’ short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
We based our carbon-reduction goals on those of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), with our focus on taking steps to improve our business practices. For Farmer Brothers, this looks like:
Many of our efforts start out as short-term goals that ultimately build onto our science based targets to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30% and Scope 3 by 18% relative to our 2018 baseline by 2025. To achieve this, we need to constantly identify areas of our business that need improvement, and create roadmaps to help guide us along the way. Creating a sustainable business model is a challenge, but Farmer Brothers sees challenges as opportunities to be more creative in how we operate.
Who at Farmer Brothers is leading your conservation and sustainability efforts and what are some examples of employee engagement in conservation and sustainability at your company?
Our Sustainability Department leads the way on sustainability projects throughout the company. At origin, Daniel Cifuentes, our Senior Manager of Sustainability, works directly with farmers and buyers to ensure that our product is taken care of from the start.
Alongside our sustainability efforts in coffee growing countries, Victoria Lau, our Sustainable Programs Coordinator, is investigating new ways to improve our practices here in the United States. At our roasting facilities and distribution centers, we are implementing the necessary steps to reach zero waste (90% of waste diverted from the landfill). At these locations, we diverted 6.6 million pounds of waste from the landfill in fiscal year 2020. Working toward zero waste means being strategic with how we handle our waste. We’ve partnered with companies like Cowboy Compost in North Texas to compost all of our organic waste, and have found local farmers and companies that can use our excess burlap bags instead of throwing them away. In addition to working toward our waste goals, Farmer Brothers is actively tracking our utility usage across all locations, and is exploring opportunities to provide buildings with energy efficient light fixtures.
Other departments such as transportation and operations are working tirelessly alongside the Sustainability Department to focus their efforts on sustainable practices. Our operations and transportation departments directly handle the processing of our coffee from the time it arrives at our roasting facility to the moment it is delivered to our customer. The operations team ensures that our sustainable practices are being implemented along the processing line by properly sorting waste to achieve zero waste status and finding ways to use less packaging and incorporate recycled or reusable materials. Our transportation team is improving shipment routes to be more efficient, replacing old vehicles with models that have a better fuel economy, and increasing intermodal shipments (use of stackable shipping containers).
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does Farmer Brothers lead and participate in?
In countries like Colombia and Peru, our direct trade program, Project D.I.R.E.C.T., trains farmers to implement more sustainable practices when farming coffee plants.
Currently, our transportation department is improving our vehicle systems to decrease their emissions. This team is running trials on new operating systems that would track items like idling time and fuel consumption on company vehicles. By tracking this data, we can identify areas where improvements are needed, such as poor vehicle fuel economy and unnecessarily long idling times. While we’re improving our vehicles, we’re also transitioning some of our shipments to intermodal to reduce our CO2 emissions from standard shipping trucks. In our 2020 fiscal year we shipped products across 260,487 miles using rail, diverting an estimated 317.29 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions. Our long-term goal is to increase those numbers year after year.
How do you see the future of conservation and sustainability evolving, and what role will Farmer Brothers play in that progress?
As more people, businesses, and organizations start to shift their focus toward combating climate change, it won’t be long until it becomes expected of large companies to implement sustainable practices to cut down on their pollution. Knowing these challenges in 2017, we decided to align our carbon-reduction goals to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) to keep ourselves accountable as we make progress in our short-term and long-term goals to decrease our CO2e emissions. Aligning our practices and goals with SBTi means we’ve made a commitment to being part of the solution to fighting the climate crisis.
How does Farmer Brothers quantify investment and return on conservation and sustainability?
While we do not have the exact number quantified, our part in proprietary programs through Project D.I.R.E.C.T. in Colombia and Nicaragua allows us to invest in various conservation efforts. These efforts include helping increase shade, timber, and fruit trees on coffee farms and the reduction of wastewater used during the coffee pulping process. While we do not track these investments monetarily, we are in constant contact with the farmers that these programs support. By tracking the growth of these farms and cooperatives, we can understand how to better transform our business model to meet the needs of farmers when issues of pollution and rising temperatures become a bigger problem for their crops.
Our sustainability investments are helping us to be well positioned in a world where climate events like flooding could become more frequent, raising insurance payments for example, or where policies at a state or federal level could be set to establish carbon taxes. We internalize those into our overall financial planning.
We make many investments in sustainable coffee growing including the following:
Farmer Brothers has identified that there is a reputational risk to the company if it inadequately manages climate change risk and the company could face decreased sales if there was a significant negative environmental impact associated with a Farmer Brothers product. We have integrated this risk into our business strategy and planning by considering environmental impacts in product design and development as it is essential to improving our carbon footprint and overall environmental performance. We attempt to find best-in-class packaging solutions that are readily recyclable by the consumer, achieve food shelf-life and food safety requirements, efficiently utilize packaging materials, and which are made from carefully selected packaging raw materials.
What is the one lesson that Farmer Brothers has learned from your conservation and sustainability efforts that others can take back and think about applying within their own space?
Conservation and sustainability is an investment for any business, and it’s one that guarantees long-term success. Using conservation and sustainability as part of our focus in our business framework not only gives us a higher quality product, but also means a reduction in emissions that would otherwise contribute to the climate crisis. Putting in the extra time and effort to make more sustainably focused decisions will guarantee the success of any business as the demand for transparency on corporate responsibility increases among customers. By building long-lasting relationships with the people who grow our coffee, we can guarantee a high-quality product is coming out of our production lines. Not only is that what our customers want, but it also means that the people and land of those coffee growing countries are being supported to give them long-term success.
Why is Texas an important home or base of operations for Farmer Brothers?
After moving from California to Texas, we have more opportunities to succeed in our sustainability goals while bettering our business. Being in North Texas has given us the opportunity to increase our use of intermodal shipping and give us access to Texas’ water ports. This change in location also allowed us to consolidate distribution centers in Oklahoma to one at our support center in DFW. We also took this opportunity to rebuild our home in Texas by designing a LEED silver certified building and are always exploring new ways to increase our status.
Learn more about Farmer Brothers’ conservation and sustainability efforts here.
In Colombia, Farmer Brothers helps growers establish food gardens to provide greater food security to their community. Since the program began in 2017, they have established 324 food gardens, 91 of which were created in 2020 alone.
Additionally, Farmer Brothers works with growers in Peru to improve existing drying infrastructure and partners with growers in Nicaragua to provide a diversified income outside of coffee growing seasons.
Farmer Brother’s invests in supplier partnerships, research, and industry collaboration to ensure they are growing coffee sustainably.
At roasting facilities and distribution centers, Farmer Brothers diverted 6.6 million pounds of waste from the landfill and shipped products across 260,487 miles using rail, diverting an estimated 317.29 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions in FY 2020.
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