Coffee Benefitting People & Planet: Interview With Matt Broscio, Social Responsibility Manager Of Peet’s Coffee

Meet Matt Broscio, Social Responsibility Manager Of Peet’s Coffee

We are surrounded by choices everyday - what we eat, drink, wear, how we get to work, where we work - and each of these provides an opportunity to make a choice that helps, rather than hinders, our fellow humans. Peet's Coffee launched their People & Planet initiative this year, which highlights their commitment to corporate and social responsibility when it comes to their coffee.

Built on the principles of direct trade, farmer assistance, and top-notch environmental and economic certifications, Peet's People & Planet initiative is an inspiring move by a large organization that shows it's possible to create an excellent product without sacrificing the livelihood of their employees and partners. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Matt Broscio, the Social Responsibility Manager at Peet's, to learn more about this initiative, the farmers and communities involved, and what he thinks makes for the best cup of coffee.

Let’s talk about the People & Planet initiative that Peet’s announced earlier this year. Is this a new initiative? And what is the core purpose behind this initiative?

People & Planet is a new initiative that highlights some of our favorite coffees and connects them to several long-standing social responsibility efforts. These efforts, which support coffee farmers, their communities, and the environment, are rooted in our belief that there is a direct correlation between coffee quality and the well-being of the people and places behind the coffee we roast. So, our social responsibility work is part of how we offer customers exceptional quality coffees, but it’s also a reflection of who we are as a company – we take care of the people around us and our communities. People & Planet has been a great way for us to convey all of this to our customers. 

How do you choose farmers and cooperatives to work with - are there specific certifications that you’re looking for? 

Our starting point is always coffee quality. We work with farmers who are deeply committed to producing high-quality coffee. From there, our relationship evolves to address the needs and opportunities unique to each producer from a coffee sourcing and/or social responsibility standpoint.

Our relationship with the Falla family is a great example. The Fallas provide the coffee in our Guatemala San Sebastián offering.  We’re now in our third generation of coffee buyers and growers working together, and collaborate on all things coffee as well as on community projects, including donating to the school and medical clinic located at the farm. It’s a long-term relationship based on a mutual commitment to coffee quality, regular communication and visits, and support for the people behind the farm’s coffee.

It’s a long-term relationship based on a mutual commitment to coffee quality, regular communication and visits, and support for the people behind the farm’s coffee.

What does it mean for the community when you pay your farmers fairly and form long-term relationships with them, and what support do you offer them outside of Direct Trade?

Our committed sourcing relationship has enabled [one of our farmers] to go above and beyond in investing in renovating his coffee trees, employing the best coffee agronomy techniques, and training and supporting his workers

It means farmers have the ability to make additional investments in their family’s well-being, their farms, their homes, and communities. Take for instance Francisco Castillo, the owner and extraordinary farmer behind Finca Linda Vista in Guatemala. We've been purchasing coffee from Linda Vista for many years and just visited with him last week, in fact. During his visit, he reiterated to us how our committed sourcing relationship has enabled him to go above and beyond in investing in renovating his coffee trees, employing the best coffee agronomy techniques, and training and supporting his workers. We offer farmers various forms of support and it ranges from long-term sourcing commitments to farmer training through our Farmer Assistance program to contributions to community projects through our Direct Trade program.

Tell us the story of Las Hermanas in Nicaragua. How and when did you connect with them, and what has their relationship with Peet’s been able to do for them and their community?

We initially connected with the Las Hermanas coffee farmers through our importer Sustainable Harvest in 2003.  We were immediately impressed with the quality of their coffee. From there, we began to learn more about the remarkable women who grow this coffee and their leader, Fátima Ismael. We’ve become a stable and committed buyer of their coffee, and we’ve deepened our relationship in recent years by contributing to training programs focused on leadership and cupping among other projects.

We visited the Las Hermanas women earlier this year, and spent time with Fátima last month. Those visits reminded us of their inspiring journey: by focusing on producing quality coffee, the women have transformed their lives and become vital economic contributors in their households, leaders and role models in their communities, and confident, empowered individuals.

How are you hoping to raise the standards of the coffee industry as a whole in order to make it more ethical and sustainable? What work needs to be done?

At Peet’s, our social responsibility efforts are part of a broader specialty coffee industry drive toward sustainability. The specialty coffee industry has been committed to this cause for many years and has made important advances in addressing a number of social, environmental, and economic challenges that exist at the coffee farm level. That said, many of the issues are persistent and complex, so we need to continue to evolve our own programs alongside our peer specialty coffee companies and learn from one another, collaborate on solutions, and listen to our producer partners so we can jointly identify opportunities for improvements and solutions.

How do sustainable and ethical practices, like the ones that Peet’s People & Planet initiative are promoting, lead to creating a great cup of coffee? 

The programs our People & Planet initiative highlights, along with our other social responsibility efforts, are designed to help coffee farmers thrive, become more resilient in the face of challenges, and also leverage coffee market opportunities so they can make improvements in their lives. Our philosophy is that if we care for farmers and their communities and do our part to ensure their well-being, they are in a much better position to produce great quality coffee.

And, we have to ask - what does the perfect cup of coffee look like for you?

For me, it’s a press pot of our Uzuri African Blend.  It has a great flavor profile, honors the work of East African smallholder coffee farmers, and supports our Farmer Assistance program.

Our philosophy is that if we care for farmers and their communities and do our part to ensure their well-being, they are in a much better position to produce great quality coffee.