A look into Tim Horton’s Sustainability

Some would argue that a Tim Horton’s cup of coffee represents the essence of our “Canadian-ness” just as much as the beavers on our coins, the ice rinks in our backyards and the maple syrup in our cupboards. But does it represent how we, as Canadians, value sustainability, ecological preservation and the lessening of our carbon footprint? Roll up the rim and you might find out.

According to Tim Horton’s Standards of Business Practice, “the company is committed to the preservation and protection of our natural environment ” (House, 2012). These commitments are outlined in their most recent 2011 sustainability report, and very eloquently describe the achieved efforts towards sustainability in areas such as “Community” and “The Planet”. However, if these initiatives consist of efforts such as recycling their paper cups in certain municipalities and have only managed to do so in Nova Scotia, it begs the question to coffee drinkers nation wide, “How green is green?”.

Tim Horton’s neglects to participate in simple sustainable actions requiring minimal efforts and funds such as offering a reusable mug to customers drinking “in house”. The money saved from slightly lessening the supply of paper cups would pay for a dishwasher for the new mugs. How would these unfortunate souls participate in the “Roll Up the Rim” campaign to win their accompanying donut? There are many creative ways to generate sweepstake marketing campaigns that don’t involve the disposal of a paper cup for each and ever entry. Brainstorming a solution for a contest at which gift cards and TVs are at stake seems much more feasible than brainstorming solutions for depleting forests worldwide.

Even more importantly than the cups themselves is the origin of the beloved caffeinated brew. Though Tim Horton’s owns two coffee roasting facilities and produces 75% of the coffee required to supply all restaurants, the origin of the coffee beans themselves are unpublished and most probably and typically imported from sources offering the best price for the bulk. The coffee market is one that is very international as the farms selling to large corporations stretch from South America to Southeast Asia. Typically these farms act as the life source for farmers working in developing areas like Columbia and Indonesia. Other coffee houses such as the famous Starbucks have created company-wide initiations to better their standards of importation. Practices of C.A.F.E. (Coffee and Farmer Equity) are a private standard created by Starbucks itself to regulate and initiate sustainable initiatives for the acquisition of their coffee. The essentials to reach this standard include financial transparency (being able to trace the coffee beans back to the specific farmer and his crop). Knowing where your couple dollars are going is just as important as knowing what you are drinking and where it comes from. Social responsibility including payment of minimum wage, no child labor, discrimination or forced labor, access to education and medical care for farmers and workers as well as safe pesticide handling is key to sustainable practices that should be adopted. Environmental leadership is also included which outlines watercourse and water quality protection, controlling soil erosion, improving soil fertility, wildlife conservation, ecological pest management, minimizing water consumption and water pollution. By ensuring this ethical sourcing of the coffee beans, and especially in purchasing coffee certified fair trade, international farmers are given opportunities to manage their business and furthermore, their communities by becoming partners with a large business such as Tim Horton’s. Buying certified Fair Trade, for instance, wouldn’t necessarily lesser the carbon footprint attached to the miles of transportation to the Canadian roasting plants, but would certainly render the acquisition of coffee beans more sustainable at the source.

Whether you drink your coffee black, creamed or sweet, it will always taste better green.

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