You hear the familiar beeping of your early morning alarm. Groggily, you hit the off switch and stumble out of bed. If you are like 76% of Americans, you know that what stands between you and a productive day is a good ole cup of joe.1 However, your morning caffeine fix may become in short supply in the near future due to climate change.
What’s the Weather Got to Do with my Brew?
Climate change is expected to have a dramatic impact on the agricultural industry due to changes in mean temperatures, precipitation, water availability, ranges of pests and diseases, and soil quality. Coffee – in particular – will be impacted by these changes as it is only grown in limited regions of the world. Current coffee growing regions may become unsuitable for coffee growing, potentially eliminating some blends of coffee and causing coffee production to have to move to higher elevations to achieve the right agricultural conditions.2
As a specific example of this altitudinal shift, Ovalle-Rivera et al studied the implications of climate change on Arabica coffee, one of the two most dominate types of coffee in production globally. The study examined 19 countries and 62,000 location points within these countries to determine the impact on suitability to grow coffee by 2050 if the climate continues to change. A summary of the results is shown below:
The study predicts decreases in suitability to grow Arabica coffee at both lower and higher altitudes, which could cause a shift in not only regions that produce coffee, but also the total supply available.3
Another complicating factor is that the lead time for coffee production is 8 to 15 years, meaning that decisions must be made in anticipation of changes in climate.2
Sustainability at Keurig Green Mountain
Keurig Green Mountain is both a specialty coffee producer and a maker of single-serve coffee machines. As such, if supply decreases due to climate change, Keurig Green Mountain is impacted in both its product lines due to a decrease in demand for coffee machines and a decrease in product as a coffee producer. Given this impact, Keurig Green Mountain has developed three components to help both mitigate its part in climate change and respond to environmental changes:
Adaption – Responding to Climate Change and Preparing for the Future
One of the primary pieces of Keurig Green Mountain’s Adaption component is working with and training local farmers on how to respond to climate change, such as the importance of diversifying crops, improving crop yields, and assisting farms to cope with the recent outbreak of Coffee Rust disease. Moreover, Keurig Green Mountain is also investigating new types of coffee trees that may be less impacted by the warmer temperatures caused by climate change.4
Mitigation – Reducing Keurig Green Mountain’s Part in Climate Change
The focus of the Mitigation component is understanding Keurig Green Mountain’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire production process, in addition to reducing its overall greenhouse gas emissions.5
Engagement – Collaborating and Partnering on Reducing Climate Change
Keurig Green Mountain is actively working with governments and NGOs to create policies to reduce overall emissions from companies. It is also partnering with other beverage manufacturers to realize synergies across the industry.5
What Else can be Done?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Beyond adapting to climate change, Keurig Green Mountain should continue to focus on how it can reduce climate change. One example is the waste stemming from single-use K-cups. Although Keurig Green Mountain has just started producing recyclable K-cups, 100% of K-cups will not be recyclable until 2020.7 Furthermore, not every community accepts the material the recyclable K-cups are made from. I think Keurig Green Mountain should focus instead on producing better re-usable pods that will mitigate the recycling issue and may be able to be used in production before 2020.
Expand the Footprint
Based on the research by Laderach, Keurig Green Mountain needs to plan 8 to 15 years in advance which farmers in specific locations to partner with. Given the potential extreme changes in the environment, Keurig Green Mountain should consider looking into new regions – whether higher altitudes or different areas of the world – to form partnerships and begin growing coffee. Keurig Green Mountain does not have time to wait until the current farmers are unable to produce due to climate change. The world needs its good ole cup of Joe! (Word Count: 748)
- National Coffee Drinking Trends 2016. Rep. National Coffee Association, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
- Laderach, Peter, et al.Predicted impact of climate change on coffee supply chains. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2011.
- Ovalle-Rivera O, Läderach P, Bunn C, Obersteiner M, Schroth G (2015) Projected Shifts in Coffea arabica Suitability among Major Global Producing Regions Due to Climate Change. PLoS ONE 1.
- “Our Stories.” – Adapting to a Warmer Climate. Keurig Green Mountain, 7 Dec. 2015. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.0(4): e0124155. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124155. Also used for featured image.
- “Sustainability.” Statement on Climate Change. Keurig Green Mountain, Mar. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
- “Sustainability.” Understanding Our Impacts. Keurig Green Mountain, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
- “Sustainability.” Reducing Product Waste. Keurig Green Mountain, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.