Understanding our impacts
From the design of our beverage systems and the cultivation of coffee and tea, all the way through end-of-life disposal, we aim to understand our impacts and leave communities and people better off as the result of our business. We use tools such as life-cycle assessments and greenhouse gas (GHG) and water footprinting to achieve a good understanding of the impacts our products have across the value chain. We use that knowledge to improve our decision-making so our products become more sustainable over time.
Our Value Chain
There are seven basic stages in our value chain related to coffee and brewing systems. Explore each stage and learn what we’re doing to address our environmental impacts.
Cultivation & Processing
We follow our responsible sourcing guidelines when we source our coffee purchases. We also source some of our coffee from Fair Trade, organic, and Rainforest Alliance® certified farms. These certification programs encourage socially and environmentally responsible farming and business practices. After coffee is harvested, energy is used to dry, sort, and mechanically hull (removing the outer covering) the beans before packaging, and fuel is consumed to transport the beans to our facilities.
Plastic cups, filter paper, and other materials for packaging our beverage pods come from a network of suppliers in countries including Canada, Colombia, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These packaging materials have upstream impacts resulting from the energy and water used to make them as well as the fuel used to transport the materials to our facilities.
When green coffee arrives at our facilities, we roast, grind, and package it. We are establishing an infrastructure to track the energy use of various operations within our manufacturing facilities so we can set actionable goals, more closely monitor energy use, and run equipment more efficiently. We also mitigate the impact of direct energy use by purchasing renewable electricity.
Brewer supply chain
Keurig® coffee makers are built by contract manufacturers in factories in China and Malaysia. The manufacturing process requires energy and water to create the raw materials, assemble, and package the coffee makers. Energy is also used to transport raw materials to the manufacturers and finished goods to our distribution centers.
After packaging, coffee is stored in a warehouse before being distributed. Environmental impacts of this stage include the energy use of warehouses and retail locations as well as fuel to transport the coffee to its destination and to transport consumers to retail locations.
Brewing a K-Cup® pod requires energy and water. However, when it comes to limiting coffee waste, single-cup brewing may minimize negative value chain impacts. Typically 15% of a pot of coffee is thrown out,** wasting the coffee, the water, and all underlying resourced that went into making it.
*Chapagain, A.K., and Hoekstra, A.Y. (2007) The water footprint of coffee and tea consumption in the Netherlands, Ecological Economics 64(1): 109-118.
**Keurig Research Study on Waste Coffee, February 2016.
Our recyclable K-Cup® pods all feature base cups made from polypropylene #5 plastic — a plastic widely accepted for recycling. Our aim is that by the end of 2018, all K-Cup® pods in Canada will be recyclable. We will continue to scale up production in the United States as well during 2018.
Our Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Footprint
In fiscal 2014, we conducted a comprehensive GHG footprint of our coffee value chain — from cultivation of coffee beans through brewer use and product end-of-life — to more fully understand our impact and identify areas where we can focus reduction efforts and engagement. This footprinting exercise represents an important step toward meeting our 2020 target of reducing life-cycle GHG emissions of brewed beverages.
2020 target Reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of brewed beverages by 25% vs. 2012 baseline.
Fiscal 2016 progress
Target met! We will develop a new goal per an updated 2015 baseline while continuing to focus on operating efficiency and improved emissions measurement.
Our updated GHG footprint reflects changes in our business and refinements we’ve made to our calculation methodologies. The updated footprint showed that our absolute emissions decreased compared with fiscal 2012 and that we met our 2020 GHG reduction target in fiscal 2015. We are pleased to have achieved the target ahead of schedule, through a combination of energy management and sales growth.
Our GHG footprint shown below details the impacts of our brewed beverages. Brewer energy use (in homes and workplaces) accounts for the largest portion of the footprint (30.9%), and our own operations (including roasting coffee, packaging lines, and offices) represent a small portion of the footprint (4.5%). Even though our production levels have increased, we held emissions from our operations relatively stable between the 2012 and 2015 baseline footprints.
To ensure scientific rigor in the way we approach product stewardship, we conduct life-cycle assessments (LCAs) for many of our products to better comprehend environmental performance throughout their life cycles. We take all impacts seriously and use LCAs as one of several key tools to identify phases in our value chain with the most significant environmental impacts. These analyses help us target our efforts in the areas with the greatest potential for improvement.
K-Cup® Pod LCA
A few years ago, we conducted an LCA of our coffee K-Cup® pods, evaluating them across all stages of their life cycle, from cultivation of coffee beans through end-of-life. We estimated the environmental impacts, including global warming potential (GHG emissions) and primary energy demand.1
Through this 2012 analysis, we learned that the disposal of the product packaging after use of a K-Cup® pod represents a relatively small portion of the total environmental impact. Significant impacts occur in the cultivation of coffee beans, use of brewing systems, and the material used in product packaging. We also learned that, compared with other coffee systems2 that brew a full pot of coffee, the Keurig® coffee maker uses less energy. On average, when compared with batch brewers, customers waste less brewed coffee when they use a single serve.
1GHG is a measure of the emissions that lead to the greenhouse effect (global warming potential). Primary Energy Demand, while not a true environmental impact category, shows the total amount of energy that is being extracted from the earth or produced via renewable methods.
2For this study, we compared our brewers against top competitors. We compared our Away-From-Home brewer with similar models from BUNN and FETCO, and we compared our At-Home brewer with Mr. Coffee DW13.