Starbucks makes large commitment to Global Farmer Fund

by Eric Schroeder
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Starbucks will invest an additional $30 million to ensure the sustainability of the specialty coffee industry.

SEATTLE — Starbucks Coffee Co. has committed to invest an additional $30 million as part of its Global Farmer Fund program, which is part of the company’s ethical sourcing initiatives geared toward ensuring the sustainability of the specialty coffee industry. The investment builds on the company’s initial $20 million commitment made in 2008. The funds will be distributed in collaboration with leading lending organizations such as Root Capital and the Fairtrade Access Fund.

Craig Russell, executive vice-president of global coffee for Starbucks.

“In 2015, we have achieved a number of milestones across our ethical sourcing initiatives, but we know that the work isn’t done,” said Craig Russell, executive vice-president of global coffee for Starbucks. “This new investment demonstrates how we remain steadfast in our support of farmers around the world. By providing access to capital, farmers have the ability to make strategic investments in their infrastructure, offering the stability they need to manage ongoing complexities so that there is a future for them and the industry.”

Starbucks first farmer loan investment was in 2000 with Root Capital (formerly known as Ecologic Enterprise Venture) for a project in the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in Chiapas, Mexico. The work helped establish a revolving line of credit focused largely on short-term financing for farmer cooperatives.

Starbucks said the $50 million Global Farmer Fund aligns with its global sourcing strategy, which includes purchasing coffee from more than 30 countries worldwide and offering product to customers in single origin, blend and small-lot programs and beverages. The first allocation from the Global Farmer Fund was expected to be announced in the coming days as part of a collaborative effort led by the International Finance Corp. and other organizations.

In 2015 Starbucks verified 99% of its coffee as ethically sourced. For more than 15 years, Starbucks has worked with Conservation International to design a set of methods to ensure that environmental and social best practices are used in growing and processing coffee. To date, more than a million farmers and workers on four continents have benefited by participating in Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices, Starbucks said. In addition, Starbucks ethical sourcing program includes a network of six farmer support centers around the world (Rwanda, Tanzania, Colombia, China, Costa Rica and Ethiopia) as well as the purchase of a farm in Costa Rica acting as a global agronomy center.
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