Brewing sustainability with their mission statements? Not Quite – A look at 5 coffee companies

Lately, I’ve seen myself working out of different coffee shops in Delhi with a small cappuccino and an extra espresso shot to go for a couple of hours – all adding up to the growing coffee culture in India, a country that has a huge potential of everything western. A market like Austria has coffee’s per capita consumption of 10kg. In USA, this figure is about 5-6 kg. India’s current consumption is at 600 grams per capita. So, there’s gap that stands to be exploited.

Historically, coffee houses have been the hotbeds of innovation and philosophy, where intellectual minds clashed for hours and hours together over their coffees. In modern India, coffee chains like Cafe Coffee DayCosta Coffee, Barista Lavazza, Gloria Jeans and Starbucks Coffee (about to enter India), are places where people treat them as a 2nd workplace with their laptops, interviewing people, holding meetings. These places also serve as a good place to hangout for the young minded.

Also read 7 Mission Statements that inspire Sustainability

The question I am trying to look at is: What, if any, communication strategies these companies are taking to project their sustainability practices to the Indian consumer? So, I started by looking at their mission statements and their values.

Coffee Cafe Day (CCD)

A division of India’s largest coffee conglomerate, the Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company Limited (ABCTCL). Popularly known as Coffee Day, CCD has come to define and create the coffee culture in India. It has Asia’s second-largest network of coffee estates (10,500 acres) and 11,000 small growers linked to its supply chain.

Mission: To be the best Cafe chain by offering a world class coffee experience at affordable prices.

CCD’s coffee is UTZ certified, based on an adherence to an internationally recognized set of criteria for sustainable agriculture, which demands at its core a commitment to conservation – of soil, water, forests and wildlife.

Verdict: Fail. Absolutely no mention of sustainability or related terms inside their stores. Need to look hard for any kind sustainable practices that CCD is employing. Apart from a brief mention of UTZ certification, zero content on sustainability.

Costa Coffee

Costa is the UK’s largest and fastest growing coffee shop brand and a wholly owned subsidiary of Whitbread PLC.

The Costa Way:Our mission has always been to save the world from mediocre coffee.”

Costa’s coffee is 100% Rainforest Alliance certified and The Costa Foundation has been set up to support the communities from which it sources its beans.

Verdict: Barely Pass. Absolutely no mention of sustainability or related terms inside their stores. Website, however, does contain sustainability as part of The Costa Way, Costa Foundation and Responsible Coffee. 

Gloria Jeans Coffee

Gloria Jean’s Coffee is an Australian owned global specialty coffee company. A relatively new player in the market, it was launched by Citymax India (part of retail giant Landmark Group) in 2008.

Mission: “Gloria Jean’s Coffees is committed to building a unified family who consistently serve the highest quality coffee and provide outstanding and personalized service in a vibrant store atmosphere.”

Vision: To be the most loved & respected coffee company worldwide

Values: Partnerships based on integrity and trust Commitment to excellence and innovation a culture of joy and passion Belief in people, building & changing lives for the better.

Verdict: Barely Pass. Absolutely no mention of sustainability or related terms inside their stores. Website, however, does contain sustainability as part of “Humanitarian” aspect via Rainforest Alliance certification.

Barista Lavazza

Couldn’t find an explicit mission statement but the site does clearly state its philosophy.

“Our aim is to passionately deliver the highest levels of experiential services. Maintain consistency in serving the highest quality products and become a globally competitive organization – one that is driven by an insatiable thirst for excellence.”

Lavazza of Italy, acquired Barista India in 2007. The homepage features Social Responsibility as one of the many sections. The company is committed to Rain Forest Alliance 9 principles.

Verdict: Barely Pass. Same as Costa and Gloria Jeans. Absolutely no mention of sustainability or related terms inside their stores. Website, however, does contain sustainability as part of Social Responsibility on the homepage.

Starbucks Coffee

By far the most popular and loved coffee brand in the world. Based in the US, there are over 16,000 Starbucks stores worldwide. Starbucks is also the only company that has done most in the sustainability space, through their C.A.F.E practices and “Shared Planet” program.

Mission: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

Starbucks™ Shared Planet™ is our commitment to do business in ways that are good for people and the planet.

One of the principles include: “We’re passionate about ethically sourcing the finest coffee beans, roasting them with great care, and improving the lives of people who grow them. We care deeply about all of this”

Verdict: Pass with flying colors. Sustainability writ large all over the store. Dedicated content with a ton of information on sustainability and its practices on the company website.

I have experienced Starbucks in Japan for a number of years, and it yells of sustainability from all directions inside its store. From its paper napkins, to carboard coffee sleeves to big mosaics hanging on the walls. I really wonder, with its joint venture with TATA group in India (legendary for its social responsibility practices), what kind of image will Starbucks bring in its stores to feed the Indian mind.

Final Verdict

I am not talking about the quality of coffee brewing, the in-store experience/ambience, the staff behavior and knowledge, or location etc. This is purely based on what the coffee company is doing to promote sustainable business practices to the Indian consumer inside their stores. Guess what, if you don’t show what you have, then people won’t know what you have. They certainly won’t flock to the websites to specifically find out about a company’s concern to environment, global warming and saving the planet through energy & water conservation, recycling, reducing waste efforts – all that make up sustainability.

Also read 5 Automotive companies with sustainability mission statements

Strange as it may sound, none of the companies mission statement per se is sustainability embedded. We can draw commonalities among all coffee brands – that is to serve the best coffee. It is the inherent nature of coffee business that makes these companies do something for the sourcing communities that grow coffee. But the thing that differentiates them is their concern towards the environment and being responsible for it. When it comes to building a LEED certified store, using recyclable/recycled paper cups, using least energy in the store, performing an LCA (life cycle assessment) and finding out the highest area of impact and working to reduce that – that’s what seperates the wheat from the chaff, the marchers from the tip-toers.

It is the company’s responsibility to talk about sustainability to the consumer – provided its not a greenwash! Being the leader in India, CCD can do a whole lot more in communicating sustainability to the consumer. So can Costa, Gloria Jeans and Barista.

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