2011

Sustainability is Key to Healthy Business

It is easy to think “Sustainable” and get boxed in thinking only using a product like our compostable hot cups means you are becoming a more responsible and “sustainable” beverage shop. Well yes, it is part of it, but it is not the most crucial part of sustainable at all. That part is how to keep the green going so your wallet stays in “sustainable mode” for your business. Too many times, we all forget that the eco part of sustainable is just that – a small part. No matter how altruistic your goals are on being environmentally sustainable, if you are not sustainable to make ends meet financially, nothing is sustainable.

Part of this is how do you stand out from your competition. Repeated consumer surveys have shown that customers identify much more positively with local merchants with greater support of their “sustainable wallet contents” than the ones that do not. So, what is one to do? How do you stand out? One idea that I have seen work for a quaint shop that seems to be jammed with a loyal following is they sell their used grounds of coffee (and thinking of same for used tea leaves), in standard paper coffee bags, like you would purchase fresh roasted beans in. Why throw it out? I remember my own grandmother never threw out any coffee grounds. She used them inside and out on her garden and houseplants. As a child, I remember that Grandmas house was always like going to the jungle.

Well, this shop has a novel idea; they sell the used grounds for 50 cents a bag. But, every year they have a contest where they ask their customers to submit suggestions on what charity or charities in their local community (any charity that is not specifically local only is not eligible) and they donate all proceeds from the sale of the used grounds for the year to that charity or charities locally in the name of their customers… It has been a huge success, and the shop has garnered a following in the city that is unparalleled.

Such a simple thing, but yet look at the benefits – A) they are reducing their solid waste going to landfills, which reduces their overall garbage costs, B) it gains a very dedicated repeat customer behavior, hence better revenues, C) local charities benefit from much needed cash D) and the shop makes a few dollars on the interest from the bank from the savings account that they keep the funds in. Talk about sustainable!!!!!!!!! And such a simple idea!

So, keep in mind, anyone can use LED lighting, compostable or recycled products for their disposables, recycled materials for your shop decor etc., which is good and all part of the overall equation on an industry so dependent on the sustainability of its most basic raw materials (Coffee beans and Tea leaves); but unless those of us that are part of this industry understand how to stay sustainable in the wallet too, then what have we achieved?? Do we let the Soda Pops and other “beverages” win? Not if I can help it, nor should you.

Buzz is the President Asean Corporation (Stalkmarket, Planet+ and Jaya brands). His career has spanned 4 decades in the Hospitality, International Logisitcs, and consumer products industries.

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