Ethical Coffee and Sustainable Supply Chains – is that even possible?
MOA was born from the desire to create positive change, to be an enabler for community to thrive. For positive change to occur, we knew all of our products, our packaging, our suppliers, our facilities and our partners needed to be aligned to this purpose as well. This became our rubber stamp, our true north and it allowed us to filter every decision we made through the lens of ‘by going this way, are we contributing to positive change?’. What we came to learn is there are degrees of the statement ‘ethical and sustainable’ and it is relative. Is being a fraction more ethical and/or sustainable than a competitor enough. For some brands it may be. For MOA, it wasn’t. And whilst we are still wet behind the ears in terms of what’s possible, one thing we know is that with everything we do we will be using the highest of metrics to measure our decisions. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are one measure. Another is the Modern Slavery Act (NSW) 2018. These frameworks and pieces of legislation have a common thread – to take measured steps towards a sustainable future through the implementation of ethical and sustainable practices – and we are using both to challenge ourselves all the way.
So what do we mean by the terms ethical and sustainable at MOA. Well, let us dive into it.
Let’s start with BEANS
The coffee industry doesn’t have the highest of shiny reputations for being ethical. Child labour, working conditions, fair pay are all human rights issues that have long been associated with this industry. The history is the history. It didn’t paint a picture of ‘enabling community to thrive’, however, it is changing. When we knew it was coffee that we wanted to have as our core product, we were tasked (self-imposed) with finding a supplier that did subscribe to the same important measures that we did. That is, that no one is disadvantaged by the conduct of business, but rather, business being conducted creates positive change. The opportunity is to do what we can to shape the world of tomorrow. This had to start with the beans and who we partnered with to roast them (a little more on that below and to come) as well as our bean supplier. Coffee supply chains are like every agri-business supply chain – they can be complex. Dotted around many countries, green bean production is an industry made up of small growers to very large producers. Our roaster worked with our bean supplier to find the bean producers that are committed to upholding the principles of the Modern Slavery Act. Their approach is to not only work with growers and cooperatives who follow the social, ethical, environmental, and human rights responsibilities including:
- No child labour and forced labour
- Legally complied by paying the farmers, pickers, mill workers the fair wages according to each country’s wage laws
- Respecting Human Rights
- Providing safe working conditions
- Equality and dignity for women and equal pay
but, to also work with growers who are committed to giving back to their communities. One example is our PNG grower (in our Wild Child and Hey Beautiful blends). Our buyer has had a long-standing relationship with PNG working specifically with the villages in Okapa and Bomai regions. They have supported the local community by providing aid with basic health & educational needs, helping build school rooms, clean drinking water and toilets.
Whilst there is no doubt more that can be done, to work with suppliers who are committed to operating within not only the legislation requirements, but also the higher value of the SDGs. It is rewarding to pick through the chaff to find the wheat in this industry – suppliers who look for sustainable options in a complex landscape.
And let’s move to PARTNERSHIPS
At MOA we cannot drive positive change on our own and even if we could, that is not what we are about. Our higher purpose of ‘enabling community to thrive’ means that we know we can create more change through working in partnership with organisations that are aligned to our values and principles.
It is the 3rd business that we, Lyndell and Darren Fogarty have built, and the reason I share this is how we still get amazed at how some businesses approach the concept of partnerships. When a business relationship is approached from a win/lose, right/wrong, better/worse than, expert/dummy mindset, which stills prevails to an astonishing degree, the outcome is not sustainable. Ethics and sustainability are both distinct cornerstones of our approach and they are also inexplicably linked. When we select suppliers, distribution channels, collaborators, and specific expertise, we want to understand what success is for them just as much for us. If we know that building a supply chain of product and service, of seeking out brands that uphold similar principles to us and leaning into a mindset of co-creation, we know that when choppy waters hit (just think COVID 19 and the impact on supply chains) the ability to work together to navigate any issue will be there. Why? Because the foundations of engagement have already been established. Put simply, our approach to business is ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. We aren’t overtly religious, but this value continues to stand the test of time.
In short, at MOA, the lines of business and personal become very blurred. Why? Because when you get past the mechanics of supplier and partner arrangements (very important) it all comes down to the relationship. If you can sit together and enjoy a coffee (our measure) than we know we are on the way to ensuring our partnerships are both ethical, sustainable and, more often than not, fun.
Our environment matters
Never more so than right now has climate change and the lifestyle contributors to it have been centre stage. And it’s a great thing. More and more the opportunity to be complacent around lifestyle choices as the options were limited are reducing. When we were sourcing our packaging suppliers and searching for our coffee roaster, we knew that we did not want to compromise on quality but, we did want to minimize our negative environmental impact. And whilst we have more that we plan on doing, we have commenced with our true north light up.
Taking a green bean and making it delicious
Not only is our roaster award winning in every sense (and we will write about the Sprocket duo in another blog later on), they co-designed and had built, a roasting facility that is fuelled on coffee grinds rather than the traditional fuel of gas. What does this mean? It means that the level of CO2 emissions that their roasting process produces is significantly less than most forms of roasting. Winning.
Plastics versus glass.
Recycled versus virgin.
Look versus functionality versus sustainability.
Choosing our packaging was not straightforward. We were committed to as light a touch on mother earth as possible, however, we are an e-commerce business so factors like durability were an important consideration. The packaging industry is evolving at a considerable rate – and this is a great thing. But we quickly realized that the availability of packaging solutions that we deemed sustainable that also were durable and, looked great, were not that plentiful. We also came to learnt that the concept of sustainability is not just about recycling or no plastic. In this article What we need to think about when it comes to packaging gurus address the whole eco-system of what sustainable packaging is. They state that how the product is manufactured (think greenhouse gases), what materials are in the product and how sustainable those raw materials are as well as end of life solutions for the product all need to be considered when thinking about sustainability. We came to learnt that at present, the market for packaging options that win on all fronts is not quite there (as reported in these McKinsey articles), however, the industry is evolving, and consumer awareness is an important part of how quickly we can push for positive change.
It also helps if governments are committed to driving change through regulation. This article Sustainability in packaging: Global regulatory development across 30 countries by McKinsey and Company looks at what the current and future plans (to 2030) are to regulate minimum requirements when it comes to packaging. The key takeaway is there are countries whose consumers are willing to pay more for a product due to the sustainability of its packaging but, proportionality it’s low.
At MOA, we have taken the high road of choosing planet and purpose where, unfortunately, there are no traffic jams. We want more brands to care and to actively choose sustainability. They exist and the presence of them is growing. We exist to enable positive change and these messages around ethical and sustainable are important. We value this and we want to build our community of customers who also value these things.
For more information on our packaging and our beans, please head on over to our FAQs.
“Creating a supply chain that is sustainable, designing a product that is beautiful to look at and heavenly to drink and providing empowered futures for thousands of young people - this is how we are paying it forward.” - Lyndell Fogarty