by John Trybus, Managing Director

There’s so much to feel good about when you drink a cup of coffee produced by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., and not just because of the intoxicating aroma and the many delicious flavors offered by the responsible coffee company.

(Complete side note – my favorite blend is the Fair Trade Organic Sumatran Reserve).

The company is a leader in corporate social responsibility – not just among coffee companies but among all companies – in large part thanks to the hard work of social strategist (and fellow Hoya) Mike Dupee, the company’s vice president of corporate social responsibility.

For Mike, his focus on CSR and sustainability work is deeply rooted in his personal value system and growing up in green-friendly Vermont.

“It was more the fact that I acted a certain way at home and why would I act any differently at the office,” Mike says of his belief that environmentally friendly habits should be at the core of home life as well as business practices. “It was [just what you did] growing up in Vermont. You have a certain appreciation for nature and resources and I brought that perspective to work.”

Mike’s career journey has been an interesting one. He worked his way up the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., ladder…literally.

After working in one of the company’s factories in 1991, Mike was promoted within the company prior to leaving in pursuit of an MBA from Georgetown University. After a stint at Goldman Sachs on Wall Street, he eventually returned to the coffee company in his current role. “I think its equal parts personal passion and serendipity,” Mike says of his career path.

To Mike, CSR is about building bridges and achieving multiple bottom lines – both for the business and to benefit society. Here’s a preview of some of the ways in which Mike and the company use CSR as a bridge builder that we discuss in more detail in our interview:

  • Programs must be integrated and truly impactful. The company’s CSR work falls under multiple pillars of focus, such as supporting local communities in which it operates – and the company stays true to where it can make an impact. Says Mike: “We’re not just out there trying to randomly do good things in the world, we’re trying to make a difference in places where we can do so but in a way that creates value for the business – whether that’s our supply chain and engaging our employees, lowering costs or learning to work more effectively with all of our stakeholders.” 
  • CSR starts from the inside out: a robust employee engagement program matters. “Employees who participate in a well-rounded volunteer program, and even those who don’t but know about it, have a much better view of the company,” Mike explains. “They’re better ambassadors for the company, they show more initiative and they have a higher intent to stay employed.”
  • There are no magic metrics: the challenge of measuring CSR programs. It’s hard to measure CSR programs because metrics will vary company to company and depend on many factors. Here’s Mike’s advice: “I think the most important foundation for thinking about metrics and measurement is having a solid theory of change,” he says. “You need to have a solid sense of what you’re trying to achieve and how what you’re undertaking can help to achieve that.” He adds: “Measurement is really hard and if you wait until you’ve got all the measurements sewn up and ready to go you probably will miss you’re opportunity to make a difference.”
  • Importance of humility. When asked what other companies can learn from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.’s CSR work, Mike responded simply: humility. “I hope and think we don’t have blinders on where there is opportunity to do better,” he explains. “We aggressively work on the language used to describe the work that we do so as not to give anyone the impression that we’ve got it all worked out. We don’t treat this purely as a way to promote the company. We try to approach the work and talk about it with humility. That’s something I think corporate America could always use more of.”

I also asked Mike about Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.’s fabulous CSR reports. Anyone who has ever created a CSR report knows how challenging – and time consuming – they are to produce effectively. Here’s Mike’s take on a successful CSR report:

“I think the best tone is authentic, transparent and humble,” he explains. “You have to walk a fine line between being confident of what you’re doing but also recognizing that you probably don’t have everything figured out yet. You want to give the reader the opportunity to form their own opinions about what you’re doing rather than tell them what to think about it.”

He adds: “There’s so much you want to tell. But you have to put it together into a story that is going to flow and be accessible to everybody, yet still be of substance.”

Listen to my interview with social strategist Mike Dupee to learn more about how Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., “brews a better world” and what we can all learn about using corporate social responsibility principles as a bridge builder between an organization and publics – both internally and externally.