Salt Spring Coffee couple balances profit with helping planet
My wife Robbyn Scott and I are in business to make money.
And that is a very good thing for ourselves, our families, Salt Spring Coffee employees, our partners, the communities we work in and serve and, ultimately, our customers.
In short, we are profit proud and have never suggested otherwise.
Still, as a company that strives to balance profit with protecting the planet, we are in the minority.
We are baffled that relatively few others are doing the same because, once you get started, it’s not that difficult.
And, as we have found since we founded the company on Saltspring Island in 1996, doing good for the planet is good for the bottom line.
The core of our business is caring about where the coffee comes from, its origin, and the people who grow it.
We cultivate partnerships with farmers and co-operatives and go beyond traditional trade methods to improve their communities. And we visit those farms regularly because we value those personal relationships.
We strive to contribute nothing to the world that cannot be reused, repurposed or recycled.
We compost absolutely everything we can at our office headquarters, roasting facilities and our three cafes.
Similarly, we recycle cardboard, paper, soft plastic, milk jugs, and hard plastics, and electronics.
Our burlap coffee sacks can be used as anti-weed liners or storage sacks and they are very popular with farmers and backyard gardeners.
We package our coffees in non-standard size cardboard boxes to ensure our shipments are as compact as possible.
And our fleet of low-emission Honda Fits goes easy on the environment.
Through the use of an afterburner, smoke produced from roasting is rendered invisible and odourless, which maintains air quality and happy neighbours.
Our Viking Roasting Centre in Richmond is powered with 100-per-cent green electricity and 100-per-cent green natural gas through Bullfrog Power. We also have enough space to store green beans on site therefore reducing transportation.
I could go on because I am pretty passionate about our initiatives. But I’m even more excited about inviting more of my fellow entrepreneurs to do likewise.
Our story goes something like this.
We started small, and we pursued growth without straying from our core beliefs, which extend to all hires and business practices. And our fair to farmer practices — we pay above-market rates to farmer-owned coffee co-operatives because they do not harm the environment with their production methods. These co-operatives have attracted a loyal following in B.C. and Alberta. At the end of the day, it helps us build loyalty that is good for business.
Salt Spring Coffee is now one of Canada’s largest micro-roasters and our coffee can be found at most major grocery stores in Western Canada. We employ 65 people, roast about 3,500 pounds of coffee a day, and generate sales of almost $10 million annually.
We have always been committed to sustainable business practices and understand that sometimes that means improving the way we do things takes time.
For example, in 2006 the company moved beyond the traditional trade relationship with coffee growers and established a direct trade model. This evolved into the Fair to Farmer program in 2010. And on several fronts we’re still working to get better because, as far as we’ve come, we appreciate that in business, as in life, there is always much to learn.
Think the coffee business isn’t a big deal? Coffee is the second largest traded commodity in the world behind oil. We know that improvements, from farmer to barista, have the potential to boost social, economic and environmental standards worldwide.
One significant move we recently made toward our goal was to join 1% for the Planet, a global movement of companies donating at least one per cent of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide.
Being a 1% member gives us access to a global group of like-minded businesses.
It also streamlines the giving process and helps us be more strategic about the organizations to which we give and more clear about how we communicate our story.
Our giving reflects what we stand for and helps us support the communities in which we operate. That means a lot to us, to our growers, to our customers. Furthermore, our non-profit partners, like LOCO BC (locobc.com), have also benefited from becoming approved non-profit partners and instantly plugging into other 1% for the Planet members.
Today there are nearly 1400 companies in 45 countries that, along with us, are member businesses of 1% for the Planet. We challenge other entrepreneurs to join this innovative organization. They’ll find it will make their businesses better and that, as part of a network of like-minded leaders, that we can do together what we cannot do alone.
Start small, align all business practices with your core values, think long-term and know that being profitable and socially responsible can go hand in hand.
Mickey McLeod co-founded Salt Spring Coffee with his wife, Robbyn Scott, in 1996. Salt Spring Coffee joined 1% for the Planet earlier this year.