For Keurig’s Brian Kelley, Charitable Giving Is ‘About More Than Coffee’

On a daily basis, Brian Kelley, president/CEO of Keurig Green Mountain, is focused on the future of the company. While that effort largely includes sales, marketing and product development, Kelley and his team also have a keen interest in providing assistance globally to the many farmers and surrounding communities that supply coffee to Keurig.

Through Save The Children, Keurig since 2009 has contributed more than $7 million for various programs in Sumatra as well as those in Latin America countries including Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Those efforts led to Kelley being named a Housewares Charity Foundation (HCF) Humanitarian of the Year. Kelley will be honored tonight at the 18th Annual Housewares Charity Foundation Gala. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. at Navy Pier. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the HCF’s legacy charity, and Save the Children.

In a recent interview with HOMEWORLD BUSINESS®, Kelley discussed Keurig’s charitable endeavors as well as the honor being bestowed upon him by the HCF.

HomeWorld Business: What experiences in your life were instrumental in shaping you as a leader in the business world?

Brian Kelley: I grew up in a big family with seven kids and athletics were a big part of my life. I played wide receiver on the football team at Holy Cross and in order for a team to work well, there are times when people have to step up to be a leader and other times you have to allow others to lead. It’s important that everyone joins together to get everyone in the right state of mind in order to execute well. It’s very similar to the business world. You need to have great strategy and execution in order to have a successful game plan. It’s also important to be flexible and be able to change when the game plan does not materialize properly.

HWB: What was your reaction when you heard you were being honored this year by the Housewares Charity Foundation?

BK: I was really humbled and honored. It is a true reflection of what our company has done to help coffee farmers around the world. All big companies that have done well have benefited from what others before us did. Our job now is to focus on what we will leave to others. We have gone into the communities where coffee is grown with the intent on helping the coffee farmers. But once there we realized it was not just about coffee, but about helping the farmers get the most from their land and attack the various diseases that can attack coffee plants. We want to make sure to support the entire family and make sure they know how to make money and continue building their community.

HWB: Is there one example of the charity work done by Keurig?

BK: I could think of so many examples. Our more than $7 million in contributions to Save the Children has helped so many communities improve many aspects of life. One example is our effort to bring clean water to communities. In Nicaragua last year we worked together to have 21 schools provide improved drinking water through a Safe Water program. In addition, we trained 60 community health workers on safe water strategies.

HWB: Please talk more about the relationship between Keurig and Save The Children.

BK: Save The Children is really unique and a very special charity to us. The work we do with them is really about more than coffee. We want to work with these communities to make sure they are sustainable for the long term. We support not only their efforts to grow coffee but also to rotate crops and grow other things. If the price of coffee is down one year this gives them other sources of income.

HWB: What advice would you like to pass on to future housewares industry leaders as it pertains to charitable endeavors?

BK: I think the business piece is obvious. If you’re doing well you want to help support those that help you. On a personal level, giving back and helping others is very gratifying. It’s part of the work you do and is a very satisfying part of the business world.