Texan by Nature is excited to recognize the Farmer Brothers as a 2022 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. Farmer Brothers is a TxN 20 Veteran and was also recognized by Texan by Nature as a leader in conservation and environmental sustainability in 2020 and 2021.
Honoree Industry and Size: Food and Beverage – Mid
Company Overview: Farmer Brothers is a leading national coffee roaster, wholesaler and distributor of coffee, tea and culinary products.
A Farmer Brothers Project D.I.R.E.C.T. (Direct, Investment, Report, Economic, Community, Training) with coffee growers
What is Farmer Brothers’ conservation and sustainability mission and why is it important to your culture?
As we begin to see the effects of climate change happening in real-time, we must act now to improve our business practices for the betterment of our world and the ecosystems where we operate. Being a large producer of coffee, it is our responsibility to ensure that our product has minimal negative environmental impact so that we can continue to enjoy the resources of our planet for generations to come.
Sustainability has no finish line and although we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, it’s clear that our path to a more sustainable future is just getting started. Each success and shortfall we encounter today simply serves as additional motivation to bring a more sustainable cup of coffee to our valued customers tomorrow.
How is conservation and sustainability a part of Farmer Brothers’ business strategy?
As a coffee roaster, our main goal is to provide a responsibly made cup of coffee to all of our customers. Therefore we’ve created our own Project D.I.R.E.C.T. (Direct, Investment, Report, Economic, Community, Training) to engage with coffee growers and provide support in any way possible. Our Project D.I.R.E.C.T. program provides a financial premium to farmers to improve sustainable farming techniques while also providing hands-on training to assist in preserving their local ecosystem and community. Using this program, and investing in other direct trade programs, we’ve established our foundation to achieving our goal of 100% responsibly sourced coffee by 2025.
We’ve also established science-based targets (SBTs) of lowering our Scope 1 and 2 emissions 30% and Scope 3 emissions 18% by 2025 from our 2018 baseline that align with the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) 1.5°c goal of limiting global warming. In order to achieve this goal, we began looking into improvements cross-departmentally to lower emissions wherever possible. Some of these improvements include our zero-waste by 2025 goal. We’re working with our operations team to divert production waste from the landfill, and our transportation team is beginning to implement systems like GeoTab and DERIVE to track metrics like fuel use and idle time, while also prioritizing the use of rail to transport products to our various distribution centers.
What are Farmer Brothers’ short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
Our short-term goals include our commitment to becoming a zero-waste company, responsibly sourcing 100% of our coffee, and our science-based targets (SBTs) of lowering our Scope 1 and 2 emissions 30% and Scope 3 by 18% all by 2025 from our 2018 baseline. Although we’ve technically achieved and are proud of our progress toward our SBTs, we acknowledge that the pandemic has played a part in reducing our emissions. Until we can demonstrate that all emission reductions are driven by intentional, long lasting changes to our operations and supply chain, we are waiting to claim achievement of our SBTs. Therefore, we’ve begun doing our research to figure out our game plan in re-baselining our emission reduction goals as we approach our 2025 target year in order to establish new long-term goals.
“The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls climate change “a threat to human well-being and planetary health.” Addressing this threat will take a collaborative effort that crosses borders and oceans alike. I’m proud of the work Farmer Brothers has done over the past few years. We aren’t pursuing these initiatives and programs just to secure a future for ourselves- we’re working to secure a future for producers we’ve worked with around the world through our Project D.I.R.E.C.T.™ program, for customers we’ve built decades-long relationships with, and for everyone that makes a cup of coffee a treasured part of their routine.”
-Deverl Maserang; President and CEO
While we think about what our long-term goals will become, we need to consider new guidance from the Science Based Targets Initiative that has established the forest, land, and agriculture (FLAG) project and their Net-Zero standards. We want to be even more ambitious when we look at the future of our company and will need to make new commitments as we enter our new fiscal year. As we look back at how far Farmer Brothers has come regarding our sustainability and conservation goals, we are excited for the future and what’s next when establishing new targets.
Who in Farmer Brothers is leading your conservation and sustainability efforts and what are some examples of employee engagement in conservation and sustainability at Farmer Brothers?
Our sustainability department, led by Daniel Cifuentes, Senior Manager of Sustainability, and Victoria Lau, Sustainable Programs Coordinator, oversees all conservation and sustainability projects across the company. Their roles can be divided into international and national programs with Daniel leading projects internationally on the farm level and responsibly sourcing coffee, and Victoria overseeing all national projects in regard to our U.S. locations, various reporting metrics, and internal/local projects.
Daniel is the link between the farmers around the globe and our business. Our Direct Trade projects on farms are formed with the assistance of Daniel. The Project D.I.R.E.C.T. program specifically has been impacting farms in Colombia for over 8 years now. This long partnership has benefited communities by establishing local food gardens to reduce food insecurity and improving water-efficiency infrastructure in the Antioquia region of Colombia and diversifying tree crops in the Salgar municipality of Colombia.
On the more local level of our business, Victoria is establishing programs and projects that impact our various sites while also gathering data for our annual reporting. Our zero-waste to landfill by 2025 is one of our more recently established goals. “Zero-waste” essentially means that we’re looking to divert 90% of our total corporate waste from the landfill with our current diversion rate sitting at roughly 77%. By collaborating side-by-side with our operations team and our partners, Rubicon and RoadRunner, we’re working to ensure various production waste is recycled or composted. We’ve recently begun working with a company out of Houston, TX that takes our burlap bags and uses them to create flood control sacks with sand. In Portland, OR local farmers and gardeners use our burlap bags during growing season as weed control and protection.
A Farmer Brothers coffee farmer in Colombia
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does Farmer Brothers lead and participate in?
On the farm level, we’re proud to have created programs through our Project D.I.R.E.C.T., such as agroforestry in countries like Nicaragua and Colombia. In Colombia, through a multi-stakeholder project with the local municipality of Salgar, the National Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), the Coffee Growers’ Cooperative of Salgar, and our Project D.I.R.E.C.T. program, we pulled together resources to plant 20,221 trees of 13 different native species on 87 different farms spanning five different villages. Similarly, on farms in Nicaragua, we’ve helped establish a total of 67 hectares of intercropped coffee plots. Intercropping coffee plants with high-value timber tree species and fruit trees with high market potential, like bananas and citrus, has benefits in the short, medium, and long term. Not only does it raise a family’s income, it also positively impacts the environment, increasing the resilience capacity of coffee cultivation in the face of risk factors due to climate change.
At our production facilities, distribution centers, and branches, we’re working with our waste brokers, Rubicon and RoadRunner, to establish recycling and composting programs where available. For example, at our Portland, OR and Northlake, TX roasting facilities we’ve sold and donated burlap bags we receive from green coffee shipments. By creating this program to upcycle our burlap bags, we’ve managed to save close to 500,000 lbs of burlap from going to landfill in a little over a year at our Northlake facility alone. Our Revive! service and restoration team members located in Oklahoma City, OK have created a system to refurbish coffee brewing equipment and recycle usable parts. Our Revive! program is our pioneer in establishing a more circular economy by keeping equipment out of landfill. Implementing programs like this and others, such as our composting partnership with Cowboy Compost in Fort Worth, TX, we’ve diverted roughly 77% of our company-wide waste from landfill.
Although we’ve promised to provide our customers with responsibly sourced coffee, we want to take that commitment a step further by producing our coffee products at our 2 LEED silver-certified roasting facilities in Portland, OR, and Northlake, TX. Producing coffee in LEED certified buildings creates products made with a lower carbon footprint than at a conventional facility. We haven’t stopped at silver, though. Our current certification is giving us fuel to achieve a higher LEED ranking, and looking to identify ways in which we can better our buildings to obtain gold and possibly platinum.
Women sorting green coffee at Piedra Grande Mill in El Salvador.
How do you see the future of conservation and sustainability evolving, and what role will Farmer Brothers play in that progress?
As the threat of climate change begins to unfold in real time, we want to be ahead of the game when it comes to new climate legislation and protecting the future of our crops and neighboring ecosystems. The effects of climate change have become a force that can no longer be ignored, and we’re prepared to face any legislation such as a carbon tax that may impact our business. From building programs that will assist farmers through Project D.I.R.E.C.T., to improving our manufacturing practices to produce less emissions, we are preparing ourselves to have a head start on a possible additional tax.
As a business with a focus on coffee, we intend to be the main supporter in a healthy future for coffee crops and the native fauna, flora, and communities that have a direct effect on this plant. Our main goal as a business is preserving the future of our world and leaving it better than before we started our business. It’s not an easy goal but we’re committed to achieving it.
How does Farmer Brothers quantify investment and return on conservation and sustainability?
We aim to quantify our investment and return on conservation both financially and based on year-over-year improvements on coffee farms and our science-based targets. As our federal government begins to move toward the possibility of a corporate carbon tax, we are preparing ourselves by making changes in how we do business to lower our carbon emissions. In our 2021 fiscal year, we were able to achieve a 41% decrease in Scope 1 and 2 emissions and 26% decrease in Scope 3. Although we’re waiting to claim our achievements until we demonstrate long-term improvements, we are still proud of our improvements in decreasing our annual greenhouse gas emissions. We will continue to annually track this progress as our investment toward a sustainable future for coffee.
Although we don’t have a total ROI calculated for all our commitments and projects, we plan to track our financial return once we’ve seen consistent progress toward our goals. Our financial investments and returns we do track currently can vary depending on projects. For example, by selling our burlap bags from green coffee to be upcycled by a local Texas business, we accrued a return of roughly $50,000 in 15 months from just our Texas facility. Our Project D.I.R.E.C.T. and other Direct Trade programs have provided an investment of over $700,000 to coffee growers to better their farms and local communities.
Annually we report on improvements among farms in countries where these Direct Trade programs have an impact. Some of these improvements include providing 23,250 coffee plantlets to farmers in Brazil after the devastating frost of 2021 that destroyed many coffee crops and establishing a revolving fund for water-efficiency infrastructure improvements in Colombia.
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?
It can be intimidating to set ambitious goals to lower your corporate carbon footprint, but we’ve learned that as we collaborate internally and externally with other organizations driven by the same goal, it’s a way less daunting task to achieve. We believe that collaboration is the key to our success as a company. Once we set our science-based targets and established a culture centered around sustainability and conservation, other team members followed along.
When we look at the future of our business as it’s affected by climate change, we all need to recognize that the solution can only be accomplished by working together. Because of our ambitious science-based targets, we’ve seen departments like transportation and operations identifying ways their departments can improve practices. Being able to lower your company’s carbon footprint won’t be possible with only one team developing projects. There needs to be employee engagement across the board with the same ambition for conserving local environments and the globe as your business develops.
Joy, a farmer in Rwanda, standing in front of bags of green coffee.
Why is Texas an important home or base of operations for Farmer Brothers?
Having our main support center based in Texas allows us to leverage the use of rail to transport goods across our locations; support renewable energy as the state leads the country in its generation; ensure we have little impact on our surrounding area as we’re located in a low/medium risk area according to the WRI aqueduct water risk atlas.
By situating ourselves in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, we’re able to harness the ability to increase shipments via rail and be closer to the port where we receive coffee shipments in Houston. Prioritizing shipping in this way helps us decrease our greenhouse gas emissions associated with fuel use.
Being in Texas also gives us the opportunity to support the generation of renewable energy, as Texas leads the way in being one of the largest producers in the country. Annually we offset our total corporate energy use with renewable energy credits to support the production of green energy.
Our specific location is beneficial for our business as we’re in a low/medium water risk area. Using high volumes of water is important to the coffee roasting process, so when we moved from California almost 5 years ago, we wanted to ensure our business wouldn’t negatively affect our surrounding ecosystem.
Learn more about Farmer Brothers’ conservation and sustainability efforts here.
Over 42K worth of coffee and culinary product donations to local food banks and community organizations across the country in 2021 in partnership with Feeding America.
The impact of reducing truck transportation with a new distribution center saves enough gas to send a 7 mpg semitruck on a nearly 3 million mile journey.
By performing waste audits at production facilities, working with local organizations to donate food, and upcycling goods like coffee burlap and more.
DFW Airport, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas