by Maureen McHugh
Coffee and the computer industry share a surprising number of supply chain parallels. Apple Computer’s recent decision to become the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association and submit to supply chain audits in an industry notorious for secrecy could be a boon for overseas workers. The coffee business, like any industry where production is conducted offshore, shares the same characteristic of a murky supply chain, often leaving both the farmers and the environment in the lurch. Equator has always put benefits to coffee farming communities first in any conversation we have about quality. Roasters seeking transparency regarding farming practices, farmer income, and living standards must work extra hard to obtain information and develop relationships on the ground.
We’ve been working directly with farmers in coffee growing regions for 17 years and we were one of the first roasters in the country to back the Fair Trade Certified label to ensure farmers a better standard of living. We were also one of the first roasters to consider the environment first by installing a Loring Smart Roaster with lower emissions and energy use, and we are the first we know of to build eco-friendly worker housing complete with clean burning cookstoves on our own farm,
We’ve always taken a holistic approach to our business by considering the impact of our decisions not just on the bottom line, but also on our employees, suppliers, community, farmers, and the environment. B Corporation Certification is a new third-party certification for companies like us that want to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corporations (or Benefit Corporations) are a new form of corporation now becoming legally recognized in a growing number of states, including California.
What this means is that, unlike traditional companies, Certified B Corporations are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on all the stakeholders connected to their business, as well as the environment. The certification process required us to answer a series of questions that demonstrate transparency and accountability in our financial records and supply chain, and consideration of workers, the community, and the environment in our decision making. It was a valuable process that pushed us to articulate policies around issues we previously hadn’t, such as employee volunteerism. It also provided metrics we can use to establish benchmarks for improvements in future performance in diverse areas of our business like energy use and minority hiring.
When we started out in 1995, we were a very small business. Just a few employees, a warehouse, and a roaster. From the beginning, we’ve believed that sourcing and roasting the highest quality coffee is only possible with a transparent supply chain that contributes to social welfare for farmers and employees, and environmental sustainability at home and abroad. With public awareness growing about the impact of businesses on the collective welfare of our communities and environment—for both good and ill—we are so proud to join a forward-thinking group of companies from over 50 industries that represent $2 billion in collective revenues and have opted to become Certified B Corps. We are the wave of the future.