Meet the B Corps: Alejandro Cadena, Caravela Coffee

In 13 September 1970, The New York Times Magazine published an essay by University of Chicago professor Dr Milton Friedman. Over subsequent decades, the neoliberal ideals promoted in The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits would influence a generation of economists, CEOs and world leaders
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Alejandro Cadena, Co-Founder & CEO, Caravela Coffee who was first B Corp certified in 2014. The company currently hold an impressive B Corp score of 137.1



Prioritising profit over people and planet has, however, become increasingly at odds with tackling the monumental challenges posed by climate change and economic injustice today. Formed in opposition to the ‘greed is good’ mantra, in 2008 B Corporation set out on a mission to create a fairer, more sustainable and equitable global economy. Its landmark ‘Declaration of Interdependence’ challenges Friedman’s philosophy by asserting business must be a positive global force, generating wealth for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
 
“B Corp is a global movement and community of companies coming together to use business as a force for good,” said James Ghaffari, Director of B Corp Certification, B Lab UK, speaking at the Global Coffee Festival 2020.
 
“B Corp is saying there is a new model of doing business where businesses can make commitments to put people and planet alongside profit and be successful in doing so.”
 
Today there are more than 3,500 certified B Corporations across 150 industries in 71 countries. To achieve certification, companies undergo a rigorous audit process and must achieve a minimum 80 points, out of a possible 200, across five Impact Areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers.
 
According to B Corp, the average score among ‘ordinary’ companies is 50.9, and with achieving a perfect score virtually impossible, even attaining the minimum 80 points demonstrates an above and beyond commitment to having a positive impact.
 
There are 84 B Corp certified coffee companies in the world today. In this series we’ll be profiling five of them, plus a brand aspiring for certification, as they share their experiences, aspirations and achievements in bringing about positive change in the global coffee industry. First up, we speak to Alejandro Cadena, Co-Founder & CEO of Caravela Coffee
 

Caravela Coffee

Green coffee trader: Latin America, Australia, Taiwan, UK, USA
First B Corp certified: 2014
Current B Corp score: 137.1


The coffee industry, particularly the specialty segment, is well suited to attaining B Corp certification. Caravela has always strived to embody the principles of community, ethics and environmental sustainability since its inception in 2002. That is why it was relatively straightforward for Caravela to gain B Corp certification in 2014, as our business model was already largely aligned with its values. However, the audit process meant we had to start documenting all of those ways of working, and that was a big shift for the business.
 

"We understood that we had to be local to gain the trust of communities"

 
Caravela attained a high B Corp score because we were already invested in and working with the communities where we source coffee, paying farmers premium prices according to quality. We understood from the very beginning that we had to be local to gain the trust of those communities. We do not operate from a central trading desk; instead we train and employ local people and we have purchasing points within almost all of the communities where we buy coffee.
 
B Corp is constantly evolving the certification process and in 2020 introduced a client satisfaction metric. Most companies see their score decrease, especially as they grow, because they are always one step behind the certification’s evolution. But this is an essential part of the journey.
 
We continuously work to improve our sustainability efforts and in 2014 we began to increase our sourcing of organic coffee. Through our Programa de Educación a Caficultores (PECA) programme, we are constantly educating farmers on best practices, including promoting better soil management by encouraging conducting soil analyses and controlling erosion, as we strive for sustainable coffee production.
 
Now, around 30-35% of our coffees are organic certified, with Mexico and Peru, in particular, really beginning to grow on the organic front. Fortunately, organic coffee demand continues to grow at a healthy pace. We would be unable to buy organic coffee simply for the sake of it – there has to be a market. So, we are always trying to balance market demand with our desire to enhance our sustainability efforts.
 

This article was first published in Issue 5 of 5THWAVE magazine.

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