There are many ways to talk about it – triple bottom line, new way of doing business, good business – but whatever you want to call it, in this day and age, it comes down to a simple principle that to survive in this economy, it cannot be business as usual. It must be business +. What that plus stand for can be open to interpretation by an organization but the most obvious, and realistic opportunity that can demonstrate a tangible ROI is the integration of sustainability into the model. This can show up in business operations, product development or the supply chain but if an organization does not evolve, it will ultimately decay and more adaptable, nimble and innovative brands will pass it by.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a conference hosted by a client of mine, Sustainable Harvest, in El Salvador called Let’s Talk Coffee. While this company embodies the idea of Business+ though a commitment to radical transparency and education, the conference demonstrated the spirit behind what this means. By bringing together the entire specialty coffee supply chain – roaster to producer –
Sustainable Harvest not only opens a door to dialogue but essentially, open sources what they have learned over the last 14 years to ensure mutual benefit. This change in the cycle of engagement to a relationship based approach not only ensures a long term commitment by the producer community but allows the producer to learn best practices, develop a higher quality product, and create greater financial returns for all organizations involved.
This conference also provided a forum for Fair Trade USA to talk directly to the entire supply chain about their recent disengagement from Fair Trade International or FLO and how they plan to evolve so that they can double their impact by 2015. Fair Trade USA, by default, was already a business+ practitioner, as the field of fair trade certification is rooted in sustainable business practices that drive positive change for producers across the globe. Be that as it may, Fair Trade USA realized that to extend those positive impacts to more farmers, they needed to open certification beyond organized cooperatives to individuals. Even good models need to constantly ask themselves, how can we do even better?
Sustainable Harvest works with a wide array of innovative organizations like Fair Trade USA, many of whom are constantly looking for a new way to evolve the model. Whether it’s Green Mountain Coffee Roaster, recently named the largest purchaser of fair trade coffee, or Dillanos Roasters who believe that the coffee industry prospers when all facets of the supply chain work together, businesses in the coffee industry are looking for ways to do more than turn a profit.
For the next three weeks, we will be celebrating organizations that exemplify business+. You will see blogs from one of these business+ Roasters and Sustainable Harvest Coffee discussing what drives organizations to evolve and the benefits- both internal and external- of being a business + as well as sharing exclusive videos and interviews from Let’s Talk Coffee that highlight conversations among organizations working in this unique way. Check out our first video (to your right) where a representative from Ben & Jerry’s talks about his experience at Let’s Talk Coffee and what the Fair Trade panel means to him.