Adding value to consumers is a critical part of being a sustainable business and increasingly that value comes from understanding and caring about your supply chain. Find out how Karma Cola and Mojo Coffee are doing this across international borders.
Karma Cola is the first Fairtrade organic cola that has a direct and transparent relationship with cola farmers in Boma in Sierra Leone, helping them rebuild their war torn communities through the Karma Cola Foundation. Since bottling the first batch in 2012 the Karma Cola Foundation has sent USD$60,000 to Boma, which has built a bridge and rice huller, sent 50 children to school, developed a seed bank, educated around Ebola and connected villages with infrastructure.
Chris Morrison, co-owner of All Good Organics (Karma Cola’s parent company) says that Karma Cola is dedicated to making the biggest difference it can to the lives of its growers and as New Zealand’s only certified Fairtrade and organic cola made from traditionally grown cola nut, the company is well on its way to putting good karma into the world.
“The Karma Cola Foundation’s guiding principle is to create independence rather than dependence with cola farmers in Sierra Leone. The Board is very future focused, encouraging initiatives that lead to economic independence, education for the next generation, and a sustainable future,” says Chris. “The more we grow, the more they grow.”
With expansion into the UK already well underway and the Karma Cola range (Gingerella Ginger Ale and Lemmy Lemonade round out the trio) for sale in Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Macau, Norway, Holland, Denmark and Sweden, it’s clear consumers the world over are eager to put their own good karma into the world.
“Consumers have told us they want to spend their precious dollars with companies that make a difference and are willing to pay a fair price with those that do,” Chris says.
After being ravaged by a cyclone in March, Vanuatu’s coffee plantations were destroyed. Only weeks earlier Mojo Coffee bought 20 tonnes of coffee from those very same farmers. Mojo has now teamed up with World Vision and is donating 100 per cent of the profits from its 1kg and 250g bags of coffee to the rebuild effort.
Tay Mark, Marketing Manager of Mojo Coffee, says that Mojo shares similar values to Karma Cola and that by giving back to the communities they not only enrich the consumer experience but encourage quality and economic growth from Mojo’s suppliers.
“What we want to do is help our growers produce world leading coffee like in Ethiopia and Colombia and we also want to provide them with a market by introducing the growers to our networks,” says Tay. “It’s a commercial business and it’s about putting them on the map as a premium coffee producer.”
Tay says that teaming up with World Vision allows them to fund the expertise required to rebuild, educate and develop sustainable ways of producing coffee.
“We roast coffee and operate cafés. We don’t have the experience in development work and this is why the partnership with World Vision is integral to the success of the projects. We know that this is not only about a Band-Aid solution. It’s about encouraging long term sustainable business practices. We’re working with an agronomist who specialises in coffee and we’re providing the farmers with education and tools to better plant their coffee farms.”
Community investment as a business model
Both companies have long term investment plans with Mojo Coffee committed to buying Vanuatu grown coffee beans into and beyond the next five years and Karma Cola committed to continued financial investment in the community.
Chris says they sit down each year and strategise around the issues that will have the biggest impact.
“One of our biggest issues this year has been getting girls into school, because sadly if a choice has to be made often it’s the boys who get to go, plus helping in any way with Ebola. We supported a sensitisation programme and sent in medical supplies. We just heard over the weekend (7-8 November) that Sierra Leone is now Ebola free which is great news.”
Supporting and rebuilding communities is a business commitment as much as it is a moral one. For Karma Cola that means the price of its product is slightly more than its competitors and for Mojo Coffee it means selling and donating more than 100 per cent of the profits from every bag of coffee.
Chris says that Karma Cola’s donations are also factored into its costs.
“In regards to how profitable it is, we work on normal business margins but obviously our ingredients cost a bit more and our end products cost a bit more but we believe we’re adding value to the consumer.”
Tay offers advice that Chris echoes to businesses looking to move into supporting and considering the supply chain.
“You have to be committed to the cause. You have to hold it dear to your heart. It’s been about six months since we started this relationship with World Vision and it takes up a lot of time and resources in the company. In order to keep it going you have to feel strongly and deeply about it. It’s not about instantaneous results but the long term and securing a relationship with your partner.”
Read more about ‘Integrated business Strategies – avoiding sustainability potholes’, which introduced us to locally-focussed sustainable procurement strategies.