Ethical Coconut Water Companies

Schilling’s Big Tree Farms works with around 6,000 organic coconut farmers in Indonesia, where he says they pay a higher than average rate for the nuts. The company also buys the nectar from the coconut flowers to convert into several sweeteners, and employees conduct audits on farms to help farmers maximize the land. Since coconut palms grow to be very tall, there is ample opportunity for the farmers to produce other crops under the canopy, such as cacao and moringa, a shrub-like tree that can be used for medicinal and nutritional purposes.

Harmless Harvest, the makers of an alternative, raw coconut water product sold at Whole Foods and elsewhere, uses what they call an ecosystem-based approach. They work with organic farms in Thailand engaged in agroforestry —or practices that incorporate a diverse array of species into the coconut orchards. They’re outfits that cofounder Justin Guilbert describes as, “traditional, rural operations that produce for the domestic market a product meant for fresh consumption—not further processing or aggregation for international commodity.” The yield and logistics, he adds, “put the price at levels that are unappealing to conventional coconut water businesses.”

While important, improved livelihoods for small farmers is only one piece of the puzzle. The other downside to this burgeoning market, as Schilling sees it, is the tremendous amount of resources used in shipping coconut water from the tropics to places like the U.S., Japan, and Europe. It’s an argument that echoes the reasoning many top restaurants are now using to explain their switch from foreign bottled water to in-house sparkling water. Namely: It doesn’t make good environmental sense to use fossil fuel, or create unnecessary carbon emissions, shipping water halfway around the world.



With this concern in mind, Big Tree Farms developed a product called Coco Hydro, which is essentially dehydrated coconut water that can be mixed into an ordinary glass of water to add flavor, electrolytes, and other useful minerals.

“Coconut water is, on average, 97 percent water and only 3 percent nutrients,” says Schiling. “The coconut water industry is shipping millions upon millions of bottles (glass, cans, and tetra packs, which you can’t recycle) around the world. It’s water with 3 percent nutrients

June 28, 2013Permalink Leave a comment

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