Coffee’s sustainability journey can be supported by the B Corp framework
Dear Green founder Lisa Lawson explores how the industry can be more sustainable and why it’s not always easy having ‘green’ in your name. A guest blog written for United Baristas as part of their 'Looking forward to 2022' series.
The past two years have been dynamic. Our recent experience at Glasgow-based roastery Dear Green includes being the most heavily locked-down UK city at the height of the pandemic, followed by the most anticipated global climate change summit and simultaneously the most intense centre of activity for environmental activism. And all of this just before the annual period of mass-consumerism known as Christmas! Having been immersed in these happenings, it’s difficult to do anything other than want to encourage further action and change.
Dear Green is named after the city of Glasgow, our home and now the home of the Glasgow Climate Pact. It is often presumed that by having ‘green’ in our name that we are environmentally friendly. We wish that was a resounding ‘yes’. When Dear Green launched in 2011 we weren’t wanting to label ourselves as anything other than a quality-focused roaster of specialty coffee. But despite us always working to keep our impacts to a minimum, how could we be ‘green’ when we sell a product that travels thousands of miles, is roasted using fossil fuels, sold in disposable packaging, before often being served in a single-use cup and consumed with milk, be it dairy or otherwise! For all of the environmentally-conscious practices and responsible sourcing within the specialty coffee industry, we all have to face up to our obvious shortcomings.
With COP26 coming to a close last week, our answer to being green now has to be an unquestionable ‘yes’. Not just for us, but for every other roastery, cafe, business and industry as well. We have to show our commitment to change, we will see the results both in our carbon footprint and in our financial performance – something the pandemic has prompted a greater awareness of. The Covid lockdown helped us to focus our efforts, to simplify operations, to travel less and to consider more. COP has engaged us, taught us and highlighted the climate emergency and the need for group action.
Businesses with a zero waste mantra are opening in every city while pledges for net zero are following suit, our own included. Coffee packaging is being looked at across the supply chain by both policy makers and consumers for its recycled content, recyclable status, reusability as well as its compostable and biodegradable properties. There are as many greenwashing options as there are science-based facts and indie businesses are working to find their best way forward.
Our journey at Dear Green is by way of the B Corp framework, a growing movement which is informing and inspiring every decision in our roastery. B Corp is a third-party audited certification which we are proud to promote and share our experiences of in order to collaborate and create greater collective impact.
We are all part of an unofficial group of coffee professionals globally who define ourselves through the pursuit of excellence in coffee. We promote quality coffee and improving the quality of life for those who produce it. For this very reason we should all be putting climate change at the top of our agenda.
We need to speed up the trend towards decarbonising our industry, with less reliance on offsetting (which relocates our problem) and more focus on carbon reduction. This ensures that we can take greater responsibility for our actions and ultimately for the devastation wrecked on some of the poorest countries, including those where our coffee crops are grown. We also need to more openly engage with those communities that are underrepresented, particularly those in our very own supply chain.
The uncertainty of the pandemic has taught us that a sustainable coffee business model is good business. Looking ahead, it’s clear that systemic change is required, and urgently. From the smallest roastery to the multi-national companies, the clock is ticking. We are competitors in this industry but we can work together to ensure coffee is good, for good! Let 2022 bring change. Let 2022 be the year where we truly respect the environment and ultimately the ongoing existence of coffee, the endangered crop which we all love so much.