Earth day came early this year for Caribou Coffee. The company that only trails Starbucks in the number of coffee shops operated in the U.S. (500 outlets to Starbucks’ 15,000 stores across the U.S.) announced in January that all of its American stores will sell only coffee sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. While the company will give free coffee on Sunday to all customers in 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia who walk into its stores, the real story is the move towards more responsibly and sustainably sourced coffee.

For Caribou, the journey with the Rainforest Alliance has been a long one, dating back to 2003.

A year ago, Caribou Coffee decided it would source all of its beans from the NGO’s certified farms by the end of 2011. The company worked with farmers in Latin America, North America, Africa and Southeast Asia to boost the Rainforest Alliance’s social, environmental and economic benefits.

For Rainforest Alliance, having Caribou sport its Green Frog seal of approval is a huge step for the organization. The New York-based sustainable advocacy group work includes several sustainable cocoa initiatives and has partnered with large companies including Nestle. But people and the environment win, too. Workers on farms that follow the Alliance’s guidelines benefit from decent wages and safer working conditions while their families have access to education, health care and housing. The farms in turn implement improved water conservation initiatives and have a leading role in the preservation of wildlife habitat. Finally the farms gain better yields from more efficient farm practices while reducing waste and eliminating the use of harmful chemicals.

Watch for Caribou to keep growing in the the coming years. Just a few years ago the company’s stock was in the tank at less than two dollars a share but the company has turned it around financially and the stock’s value has increased five-fold. Now that the company has embraced more environmentally and ethical products, look for the company to become a solid model of what it means to be a truly sustainable business. Customers who score that free coffee this Sunday will be sipping a caffeinated indulgence from a company on the move that everyone from farmer to barista can feel better about.

Leon Kaye, based in California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.

Published earlier today on Triple Pundit.

Photo of original Caribou Coffee shop courtesy Wikipedia.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.