Costco and CIAT’s Exploration of Guatemalan Green Beans

French-style green beans flow every day from remote farmers in Guatemala to Costco stores throughout North America. They pass through the Cuatro Pinos Cooperative and the Los Angeles Salad Company, who provide technical assistance to farmers and prepare the beans for sale to North American consumers. A Costco executive, through her participation in Sustainable Food Lab, began to wonder whether farmers in value chains like this one were getting a fair price, and whether their families got the care and services they needed. Conducting this inquiry required transparency among all the players in the chain, in order to understand how profits from green bean sales were being distributed. Engaging with an external, non-profit research center, CIAT, was critical to building trust, thus providing a neutral observer of value chain activities. Through CIAT’s extensive value chain analysis, and a skillfully conducted supply chain summit in Guatemala, it became possible for participants from each of the supply chain companies to see and feel the system of which they were a part. They made a decision to invest in sustaining and upgrading the existing commitments to alleviating rural poverty, through the establishment of a Foundation in Guatemala, funded by green bean revenues. The case study describes this process, and some of the challenges involved in institutionalizing the experiences and insights of the Project.

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