Featured B Corp of the Month: Ethical Bean and Why They are Just Better!

We’re big supporters of the principles behind the B Corp movement, but we want to do more than just "spread the love" about it, we want to share the sustainability success stories from other B Corps!  Each month we’ll be publishing an interview with a sustainability champion of a B Corp – and this month we are featuring Ethical Bean!

What made your company decide that sustainability was a priority?

Sustainability has been a core pillar for Ethical Bean since day one. In 1999, when my wife and business partner Kim and I travelled to Guatemala to adopt our daughter, we were shocked and embarrassed to learn that coffee farmers were being exploited and we wanted to do something about it. We decided to start a for-profit business that would be successful in the marketplace without compromising our social and environmental values. In our first year "just. better." became the company’s moniker. The “just” represents our social responsibility: ethical sourcing, small environmental footprint, and a community mindedness (all B Corp values!). On the other hand, “better” reflects our commitment to being a spectacular business, successful for our partners, and a pleasure to work with in all areas. Needless to say when we learned about B Corporation we jumped at being part of a movement that celebrates like-minded companies!

What is the biggest sustainability challenge facing your industry today?

Ethical Bean shares a thorn in it’s side that impacts the coffee industry – particularly the grocery coffee industry: non-recyclable packaging. Our Director of Coffee, Aaron De Lazzer, goes above and beyond to source some of the best Fairtrade organic coffees on the planet, and ensures that they make it fresh to counter tops across Canada and the US. This is a top priority for us as a better business. We want consumers to drink our coffees at their best! Unfortunately, so far this has meant putting them in non-recycling packaging. We’ve instituted a take back program where we trade 12 of our empty bags from our customers for a full new one to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. We’re storing these bags on site, donating them to creative upcycling programs, and researching all sorts of recycling options moving forward. We are also supporting industry initiatives like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a consortium of industry leaders currently using non-recyclable packaging. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of B Corporations among the group. What’s better than good company?

How important is sustainability to your customers, and how do you tell them your sustainability story?

With a name like Ethical Bean, we are making some pretty hefty claims and have a lot to live up to. It’s important to us and to our customers that we are able to verify what we claim and really demonstrate that we walk the walk. We’ve chosen two strategies to do that: third-party certification, and supply chain transparency and traceability. Certifiers like B Corporation, Fairtrade International, Quality Assurance International, and others, allow us to demonstrate our claims with credibility. We don’t want consumers to take our word for it. We want people to know that we are ready to open our books to auditors and really prove it. Beyond that, it’s critical that we’re transparent about our supply chain – especially in coffee with a supply that comes from the other side of the world. That’s why we allow every customer the chance to trace their coffee from crop to cup with our unique (and free!) iPhone app and QR code. Every bag of Ethical Bean comes with a QR code on the back that, when scanned, shows the exact origins of the beans down to an interactive Google Map, descriptions of co-ops, quality notes from our Director of Coffee, and even copies of our certification documents. If we have it on file, you have access on our app. It’s been a very powerful tool to explain our sustainability story and continues to impress our customers, partners, and colleagues in the industry.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your sustainability journey?

The most important lesson we have learned is that it works. Valuing ethics alongside more traditional business goals has not held us back from achieving success. In fact more often it opens doors and generates new business! The B Corp community has proven to be a fantastic example of that, and we look forward to being a B Corp for the long haul!

Lloyd, Bernhardt, Founder:

A recipient of various awards, Lloyd Bernhardt was honored to be included in the 1991 'Top 40 under 40 Achievers' (Business in Vancouver). In 1988, he co- founded Motion Works, one of B.C.'s first and most successful Macintosh software development companies, and consulted for Apple Computer in California prior to launching Ethical Bean. After he and his wife Kim journeyed to Guatemala to adopt their daughter in 1999, a passion for the culture of the country and a desire to better the lives of coffee farmers was ignited. The couple returned to Vancouver and in 2003 launched Ethical Bean Coffee, roasting only Fairtrade certified Organic coffee. Ethical Bean has grown from a local, to a national, to an international success on the belief that social and environmental responsibility is also good business.

Lloyd Bernhardt, lloyd@ethicalbean.com, 604-431-3830

Ethical Bean Coffee is Canada's 2nd largest roaster of 100% Fairtrade certified organic coffee. The Vancouver, BC, based company prides itself on being both "just" and "better" in everything that they do. Whether it is through programs that respect both the earth and its farmers, or by leaving little to no environmental footprint, Ethical Bean is constantly seeking new ways to do the right thing. What began as a small operation with one employee has since grown to operate out of a 10,000 square foot facility employing 24 people.

Check out another article about Ethical Bean!