Juan Valdez, the iconic Colombian coffee grower who is a brand for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, has been recast as slimmer, more youthful and eco-conscious. Hoping to cash in on the booming market for specialty coffees, federation officials say the new Juan Valdez was designed to embody values of environmentally-friendly cultivation and organic blends. Valdez now boasts his own line of premium and organic blends, on sale at Wal-Mart and other venues.
Is there there any truth to the greener Colombian coffee, or is Valdez's new hue just an opportunity for greenwashing? According to the Rainforest Alliance, an international conservation NGO, more than 170 coffee farms throughout Colombia that belong to the federation have been certified for their environmentally sustainable and socially responsible farming practices since 1999. The Rainforest Alliance along with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of locally-based conservation groups, has devised and implemented a set of standards that protect wildlands, wildlife and the rights and welfare of workers, their families and communities. BogotaÌ-based SAN member FundacioÌn Certification empowers growers by giving them tools to help increase their income while conserving natural resources for future generations.