Looks like we were ahead of the curve. Keep in mind that we actually made the commitments to start this business in September 2006, with the purchase of real estate. I signed a contract with Dan for the roaster in January 2007. Ahead of the curve on what, you ask?
I was just catching up on my mail queue, reading the June/July issue of Worth Magazine. The Thought Leaders column was on Environment. They observe that sometime in 2007, “American industry has moved from ambivalence about the dangers of greenhouse gases (GHG) to the gritty realization that it must contain them and learn to operate in a carbon-constrained world.
Well, No Shit. What the hell took so long? Pardon my French.
So why the sudden change of heart? Worth cites GHG reduction as “now a national priority” with “stewardship… a new measure on which companies need to compete”. That’s a nice thought, but I doubt it.
I think they (and in this case I include ME in they) realize it’s just cheaper in the long run to operate a clean business. I know it is for me – my energy consumption is next to nothing. I figure the differential capital cost for a clean roaster will be recovered in about three years. Maybe less at the rate y’all are buying our coffee (thanks!). We are also packaging in biodegradable bags that are not coincidentally less expensive than high barrier poly valve bags because, hell, there’s nothing to them. Nor should there be. I admit, our coffee bags really aren’t much to look at, and they aren’t the right tool for storing coffee for weeks. But you shouldn’t store coffee for weeks, and if you’re hell-bent to do so, you can put it in a mason jar, or I’ll sell you a reusable canister.
In the case of big business, I think leaders are finally waking up to the reality governments will impose charges for GHG emissions, proportional to the amount emitted. While no self-respecting Libertarian likes the idea of any tax, this seems to me to be the most appropriate use of “sin tax” levys. And it’s not likely to be applied to just the final product steps, it will be pushed across the entire supply chain, hence the term “supply-chain environmentalism”. In other words, you won’t be able to make your component or ingredient suppliers do your dirty work (ha!)… you will pay for GHG across your entire supply chain.
Whatever the reasons, it’s about time.
I get kind of testy on this subject. I am justifiably proud of the environmental responsibility of our little operation. I wish consumers cared more, but the uptake is slow, slow, slow. People are becoming trained to ask for organic and Fair Trade and that’s where they want to stop thinking about enviromental and social responsibility as relates to their morning cup. But when you realize that certified coffees, including organic, Fair Trade and others, constitute less than 5% of coffee production, and that the vast majority of pollution produced in conjunction with coffee consumption occurs OUTSIDE of origin, you begin to realize that consumers aren’t asking the right questions. And that’s no accident – the industry doesn’t WANT them asking the RIGHT questions, because the answers are too painful.
We have seen the enemy, and he is us.
Anyway, enough ranting for now. I’m going to go look for investment opportunities (outside of my own business!) to buy into companies that are on the leading edge of supply-chain environmentalism. If you have any suggestions, let me know.