SEATTLE, Wash. — Starbucks Coffee Co. and Conservation International have announced a $2.5 million direct loan by Starbucks to help capitalize CI's newly launched Verde Ventures fund.

The fund helps provide direct access to affordable credit for small-scale coffee producers. Starbucks support is the largest loan commitment of its kind provided by a specialty coffee company. This new agreement extends Starbucks and CI's five-year partnership with an additional three-year, $1.5 million grant to support CI's Conservation Coffee program to conserve the environment while providing economic opportunities for coffee farmers.

"Starbucks values are reflected through its supply efforts and our involvement with Verde Ventures demonstrates our desire to address the pressing issues that coffee farmers face today," said Orin Smith, Starbucks president and CEO. "We hope that farmers will utilize their loans for conservation coffee production that protects the Earth's natural resources, improves their livelihoods, and provides Starbucks with sustainably grown, high quality coffee."

CI will use Starbucks financing of the Verde Ventures program to provide pre- and post-harvest loans and capital improvement financing to coffee producers. With Verde Ventures, Starbucks and CI are taking a leadership role in the coffee industry to address some of the financial challenges facing small-scale coffee producers.

Most of the loans will be distributed to small-scale producers in Central and South America. To date, three loans totaling nearly $435,000 have been approved for participants of the Conservation Coffee program in Chiapas, Mexico, and a cooperative of organic coffee farmers in Sumatra. CI owns and manages Verde Ventures, a $6 million investment fund which strengthens small and medium-sized enterprises contributing to biodiversity conservation in CI's priority areas through debt and equity financing of $100,000 to $500,000.

In another significant move, Starbucks has renewed its partnership with CI with a total cash contribution of $1.5 million over the next three years. Starbucks and CI will continue to promote environmentally sound coffee cultivation in the manner that improves the livelihood of coffee farmers, work to expand Starbucks green coffee sourcing guidelines program, and communicate the partnership to Starbucks customers and CI audiences.

Since Starbucks and CI began working together in 1998, the collaboration has produced significant benefits for habitat conservation and farmer livelihoods in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. Additionally, high quality coffees from Conservation Coffee projects are now available to Starbucks customers across North America and select international markets, including Organic Shade Grown Mexico, Decaf Shade Grown Mexico, Conservation Colombia and Starbucks Peru.