With consumers increasingly opting for ethical products, Costa Coffee has set up its own charity, the Costa Foundation. The company says its aim is to put something back into coffee-growing communities from which it sources its coffee beans. It is currently working in Colombia, Ethiopia and Uganda.

The foundation helps support communities by building new schools and teacher accommodation, investing in water wells, developing land for families to grow crops and building latrines.

"In Colombia, the local authority has agreed to provide kindergarten facilities within the primary school we are extending. In Ethiopia, electricity is being funded and supplied to the schools we are building - this is the first time this community has had electricity," says a Costa spokesman.

The Costa Foundation is funded through a number of mechanisms, including an annual donation from Costa, match-funding by Whitbread, store fundraising activities, customer donations and payroll contributions. Individual donations can also be increased through Gift Aid, a government-led initiative, that allows charities such as the Costa Foundation to reclaim the basic rate of income tax on donations made to them by UK taxpayers.

"We are 100% committed to developing long-term, sustainable projects and, to support this, schools can apply for grants on an ongoing basis to provide additional resources when required," says the spokesman "We recognise that, without the farmers and co-operatives who grow our beans, we have no business and that they are an integral part of Costa’s success."

The firm works closely with our brokers, who have long-term relationships with the non governmental organisations and co-operatives that are responsible for the day-to-day project management in the supported countries.

Regular project updates are provided and there is a robust auditing process in place to evaluate and measure progress, says the company. The staged release of funds is based on achieving agreed targets.

Other organisations in the coffee-growing countries include: the Federacion Nacional Cafeteros de Colombia; the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union in Ethiopia; and Union Export Services in Uganda.

Costa offers its own blend of Fairtrade coffee at no extra cost. But not all the coffee is Fairtrade, as availability could not be guaranteed from all Costa’s origins to produce the right quality for its Mocha Italia Espresso blend.