This startup decodes coffee bean DNA to create sustainability

The World’s Originals is a coffee startup whose brand values are helping create social change in an outdated industry

In the early 18th century, when Bach was composing music, coffee was a relative novelty in Europe. Traders began to import the rich beans from the Arabian Peninsula in the early 1600s. In Europe, coffeehouses established themselves as popular and essential locations for conducting business, exchanging ideas, and social gatherings, much as they are today.

The growth of coffee cultivation, which was originally from Ethiopia, was taken up by many countries around the globe at the end of the 19th century, including Latin America. In almost all of the coffee-growing countries, the exploitation of indigenous people and underpaid coffee farmers became a common, sad reality. 

The source of the warm, comforting beverage – which so many people worldwide love to enjoy daily – is not always given enough thought. It is sold in every corner of big cities, as well as rural villages and one of the most consumed beverages worldwide. But who are the people creating coffee today? 

A closer look at the coffee industry  

The coffee business is a multi-billion dollar business, but not for the people growing it. The exploitation of coffee farmers remained in many parts of the world and is still common today.

For every $2 cup of coffee, a farmer receives only a few pennies. Farmers depend on big traders to buy their raw beans at stock exchange prices, transport them to industrialized countries, where the beans are roasted, packed, marketed and sold for a high price that the traders keep. It is very common that the coffee farmers don’t even know what their own coffee tastes like, as they never roasted and processed their beans. Exploiting cheap labor costs enables coffee traders and sellers to harvest and buy beans as cheaply as possible, leaving bigger profit margins for the traders and roasters. Field workers and farmers live in extreme poverty and shacks, where cooking often takes place in mud holes. 

Brand values of the solution

Much of today’s inequality and poverty arises due to lack of economic sustainability. Because of this inequality, Fair Trade International was established in 1997 in Germany.

The organization’s mission is to help coffee farmers in emerging markets to achieve sale prices of raw materials that cover the average costs of producing their crop sustainably and establish decent working conditions. However, despite farmers receiving fairer payment, they don’t always make a profit. 

Fair value creation

The founders of Worlds Originals, a startup that imports and distributes coffee beans from Colombian farmers in Europe, recognized this gap and created their own approach, which they refer to as “Fair Value Creation”. This innovative approach is unique as it pioneers economic sustainability and empowerment of raw material producers. 

Source: © 2020 Linusto GmbH

 

It differs from other business models as World Originals puts the responsibility of growing, harvesting, roasting, sorting, packaging and shipping of the coffee bean package for the consumer. The bargaining power remains in the hands of farmers in the country of origin, such as Colombia.

By enabling and empowering coffee farmers in emerging markets, sustainable economic development is achieved and farmers earn 4,6x more compared to Fair Trade prices and 6,3x compared to commodity trade prices decided by the stock exchange (status: 18.04.2020). 

Selling empowerment and fair trade

The massive transformation purpose of brands such as Worlds Originals with their Fair Value Creation approach is not selling coffee, but empowerment for farmers to lead better lives. Better lives means not just fairly paying the farmers, but enabling entrepreneurs that are able to progress economically, send their kids to school, create local jobs all-year around, and learn new business skills.

Furthermore, the goal is to encourage consumers to rethink their consumption and to challenge the supply chain and source of the products they buy.

Multi-stakeholder groups as a new approach 

The Fair Value Creation proves a win-win approach is possible: 

  1. The farmer becomes a micro-business owner and achieves ownership, empowerment, and independence, while World Originals distributing the coffee achieves financial success: profit for purpose.

  2. The environment benefits too: coffee beans lose ¼ of their weight through roasting. By being roasted in the country of origin, the transportation weight becomes less and leads to more sustainable importing methods.  

  3. The consumers are taken on an authentic and cultural journey: consumers of Worlds Originals experience a cultural experience every time they drink their morning beverage. As the beans are 100% traceable, consumers know exactly where every single coffee bean comes from, which is impossible in commercial and mass produced coffee. The difference in taste of the coffee beverage is remarkably notable of coffee “made with love” vs. coffee made under poor and forced working conditions.

Source: © 2020 Linusto GmbH

 

The future ahead: consumers want to buy a purpose, not just a product 

Consumers, particularly Millennials, are very conscious about the importance of fair supply chains and are willing to support brands that sell fair products. They increasingly want to purchase from brands that embrace purpose and sustainability. According to Harvard Business Review, a recent report showed that certain categories of products with sustainability and social responsibility initiatives grew in sales twice as much as conventional products.

Research shows people prefer consistency and that if they adopt one sustainable behavior, they are more likely to commit to other positive changes. Beginning with a single step, such as consuming fair trade coffee, likely leads to steps such as buying other products with transparent supply chains.

 

 

Kim Riemensperger is a graduate student in the Master in Customer Experience & Innovation, class of 2020, at the IE School of Human Sciences & Technology. Kim strives to be an agent of change of the environment and healthcare, and is passionate about solving global challenges. Connect with her on Linkedin here.