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BASEL,

SWITZERLAND
MARCH 2021

Marie Tuil,

Co-Founder, responsible for Communicationof direct coffee

What is your background in CSR/Social Impact/Sustainability/Communications if any?

Together with my husband, I founded the Swiss Social Startup Direct Coffee. We’re importing coffee directly from smallholder farmers who grow the coffee in its natural ecosystem: the mountain forests of Ethiopia. Here in Switzerland, we roast it and sell it in compostable Nespresso®-compatible capsules, as beans, and ground. For each package our customers buy, 1CHF goes to one of our own social projects in the coffee farmers’ community.
Social Impact and Sustainability are at the heart of our business. And as a former journalist, I’m the one who’s communicating our mission and its implementation.

What do you do at your organization in terms of CSR/Social Impact/Sustainability, how do you monitor and report (non-financial reporting?) the outcomes and what are the goals?

Our goal from the very beginning in 2016 was building a company that is sustainable in every aspect of its value chain. That’s why the social and ecological impact is a crucial part of every decision we make.

It started with the selection of the farmers we want to work with … and actually, it never ends. Fortunately, there are more sustainable solutions popping up everywhere these days. We just improved our Nespresso®-compatible capsules from just being biodegradable to being home compostable. And we’re currently testing compostable coffee bags to replace our already eco-friendly packaging with an even better solution. We’re also offsetting our carbon footprint to the best of our knowledge in order to be CO2 neutral.

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What do you think does a business/organization/foundation need if it wants to start introducing CSR/Social Impact/Sustainability practices?

It’s very simple: it has to just start somewhere. We need as much sustainability as soon as possible. So just start – even if the solution is not perfect yet. Then try to improve.

In the first year, we used a very simple model to calculate our footprint and just compensated it. Now there is much more data available about the carbon footprint of coffee and our model has improved. Again: it’s not perfect yet – but compensating a slightly wrong number is much better than not compensating at all (directcoffee.net/en/true-sustainability/co2-neutral/).

Do you feel that differentiating yourself through impact has brought an added value to your business and reduces risks? In what way?

Yes. Absolutely. True sustainability is our unique selling point. That’s why people choose Direct Coffee over Nespresso® or other coffee. They want to make the world a bit better, one cup at a time. And we offer them the coffee to do so.

Do you see a change in behavior in your consumers?

Our supporters have always been very aware of sustainability issues. But we can definitely see a shift – sustainability is becoming a mainstream topic. Finally!  

“Sometimes we meet people who tell us they don’t calculate and compensate their carbon footprint because there is no way to calculate it perfectly. Who cares?”

How do new technologies and this digital age influence your work? Do you use them?

We’re selling most of our coffee through our online shop – so if the internet still counts as a new technology it influences our work a lot. Also, our website is one of our main communication channels through which we publish our sustainability efforts. We’re also interested in blockchain to make our value chain even more transparent (www.directcoffee.ch/transparent) but we haven’t found an applicable solution yet.

 

In your view, what’s the biggest challenge when it comes to marketing CSR/Social Impact/Sustainability efforts to the world in a more active way than merely through your sustainability report?

If you want to communicate your sustainability efforts effectively, you must find a way to create trust. That’s the main challenge. A beautiful challenge in my opinion. It forces you to create a better relationship with your customers.
 

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