Most students who drink a cup of coffee in Caldwell’s dining hall do not know they are making a difference in the lives of farmers in Latin America.
Keith Lemnios, president of Sun Coffee Roasters, which supplies the coffee for Caldwell’s provider, Gourmet Dining, is on a mission to educate young people about the role they can play in helping micro-farmers and their families. In an event sponsored by Campus Ministry Dec. 3, he spoke to students about his company’s work in the sustainable fair trade coffee business.
Caldwell students, including those in Professor Helen McGowan’s MBA law and ethics class, learned how Lemnios and his employees make sure that the farmers earn living wages and that their children have an education through twelfth grade. Lemnios said this gives the children the choice after graduation to go home and to work on a higher sustainable crop or to make a living in a different field. “Keith is an inspiration for our aspiring business leaders. We learned so much about corporate social responsibility and business ethics in action,” said McGowan.
In 1990 Lemnios started working in the coffee business after having worked on Wall Street. He was focused on business, profits and “myself,” he said. However, he had “an awakening” in 2002 when his staff found invoices from the late 1940s. To his amazement, the prices were exactly the same then as they were in 2002. The invoices showed coffee from Peru, Colombia, Guatemala and Brazil. Lemnios was purchasing from these same countries and regions in 2002. Farm families two generations later were making the same amount of money as in the 1940’s, he said. “That was just wrong.”