On this episode of the Re:co Podcast, Peter Guiliano speaks with Colleen Anunu, Director of Coffee Supply Chain at Fair Trade USA and member of the SCA Board of Directors. After leaving the sensory world for a master’s degree in International Development at Cornell University, Colleen now works to advance equitable trade initiatives as Director of Coffee Supply Chain at Fair Trade USA, where she leads strategic research focused on impact and production economics, grant-funded partnerships and operations management for the coffee category. At Re:co Symposium last April, Colleen opened the session, “Changing Tides: Building Diverse and Inclusive Coffee Communities,” before moderating a panel featuring Isabela Pascoal Becker, Kimberly Easson, Doug Hewitt, and Jenn Chen. A full transcript of the podcast can be found below.
Special Thanks to Toddy
This talk from Re:co Seattle is supported by Toddy. For over 50 years, Toddy brand cold brew systems have delighted baristas, food critics, and regular folks alike. By extracting all the natural and delicious flavors of coffee and tea, Toddy Cold Brew Systems turn your favorite coffee beans and tea leaves into fresh cold brew concentrates, that are ready to serve and enjoy. Learn more about Toddy at http://www.toddycafe.com. Links
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Peter Giuliano: Hello everybody. I’m Peter Giuliano and you’re listening to the Re:co podcast, a special episode of the SCA podcast. The Re:co podcast is dedicated to new thinking, discussion and leadership and specialty coffee featuring talks discussions and interviews from Re:co Symposium. SCA’s premier event dedicated to amplifying the voices of those who are driving specialty coffee forward. Check out the show notes for links to our YouTube channel where you can find videos of these talks.
This episode of the Re:co podcast is supported by Toddy. For over 50 years Toddy brand cold brew systems have delighted baristas, food critics and regular folks alike by extracting all the natural delicious flavors of coffee and tea toddy cold brew systems turn your favorite coffee beans and tea leaves into fresh cold brew concentrates that are ready to serve and enjoy. Learn more about Toddy at Toddycafe.com. Toddy. Cold-brewed, Simply Better.
Okay, let’s get started with this week’s episode. On this episode of the Re:co podcast, we are pleased to welcome Colleen Anunu, Director of Coffee Supply Chain at Fair Trade USA and member of the SCA Board of Directors. How’s it going Colleen?
Colleen Anunu: It’s going great Peter.
Peter Giuliano: So over the next three weeks, we will be releasing episodes from the Changing Tide session at Re:co this symposium this year, which you led. And you’ll be taking over the Re:co podcast for those sessions, interviewing some of the speakers and talking about the discussions that took place at the event around this session.
So today we’re going to listen to your opening speech and the first panel.
So I thought it would be nice to sort of explore how we got to this session in the first place. So in general we talked to members of the Re:co community and the specialty coffee community. And this year, equity, diversity, inclusion as a topic started to really come up for us. Isn’t that. Isn’t that sort of how it happened?
Colleen Anunu: Yeah, I mean, so I think that that the you and some of the other Re:co event managers and content managers usually reach out to people and ask them for the hot topics or the lectures and talks that they would like to see us address.
And yeah, this really emerged more in the social media space than it did in any of the actual conversations that I was having with people.
Because, for one thing, I think most of the conversations, the intentional conversations that we have on the business front don’t involve the same people that we have on the social media sphere. And so it was one of these eye-opening moments for me of “well, are we talking are we always talking to the right people?” And how priorities change depending on what context you’re talking.
Peter Giuliano: Yeah. I mean, I noticed that too for sure. That a lot of these conversations started in the social media sphere. But I did notice as we as we worked on this and as you led this, as we went forward, it started to come up in conversations among the – let’s say – the the coffee leadership community or the people people that generally kind of lead companies who are often somewhat older, often male, often white. And aren’t traditionally, let’s say looped into these conversations, but starting to become more aware and more interested in these conversations, in the weeks and months leading up to Re:co.
Colleen Anunu: Yes, absolutely.
Peter Giuliano: I wonder how so part of your job was to reach out to people that would be participating on this panel and these speakers. How did you how did you go through that process?
Colleen Anunu: Yeah, so I mean, I think I had a conversation with you and sometime in January which for planning purposes is a little bit late for for what you would normally use or look at milestones for accomplishing, you know, the content and the speakers and all of that.
So there was a little bit of a push to “let’s put this together, let’s figure it out and let’s actually figure out what the message is going to be.” Because the topic of marginalized communities and equity, diversity and inclusion is just so loaded. And it’s such an onion as you as you peel back all of the layers. It was really hard to hone in on exactly what the what the topic was going to be, how we were going to approach it, how inclusive could we be to make this a whole broad discussion about the front and back end of the value chain, basically.
And how we were going to include producer voices. But how are we going to also include barista and retail voices, and then talk about sort of the broader stuff that’s happening in the social and political environments in countries around the world.
So it was not an easy topic to define, what the overall goal or objectives of these talks were going to be and then finding the right speakers too, was something that we really spent a lot of time thinking about.
And that’s why the format of this session was so different from the other format.
Peter Giuliano: Right. There’s a lot more voices. I mean the time is constrained, and it’s such a huge topic and there’s so many potential voices that we’d like to include but, given the constraints of time, you wind up having to concentrate the conversation.
But we did wind up doing two panel conversations in this, punctuated with a talk in between. Which enabled us to include more voices than we normally would in the same time space.
Colleen Anunu: I think that the second panel had something like seven or eight people on it. That is not normal. It’s not ideal. But we may it work by putting a couple of the people in the later panel on the first one and really getting to know them.
I would say with the other sessions, the format of having two major talks in a panel associated with it, just wasn’t going to work for us. Not because we didn’t think that we could have a couple of really solid 20 minute talks. But I really thought that it was much more of a conversation, because it was supposed to be about how do we have conversations?
So really framing it as a conversation about conversations is was kind of the idea therefore. Well meta.
Peter Giuliano: Yeah. Well, I mean and I’ve shared with you before, I went into the audience for this session. I sat in the audience. Usually I watch talks and things from backstage. But for this one I wanted to be in the audience.
And I looked around me and what I saw was a bunch of those – you know, the traditional leadership class in our industry that I mentioned before – lots of them were doing something that I don’t often see at Re:co, which is taking notes in their notebook.
What I heard later was that there was a lot of new terminology being introduced here, a lot of new concepts that we don’t often get to see in a conference like this.
It seems to me that you all really achieve that. You brought a whole different set of conversations to an environment. And I recognize that it seemed like there was a lot of gratitude and recognition of like, “okay great – we can talk about this now.” And so I think that was good.
Colleen Anunu: That’s great. That was definitely by design. Not only did we want to generally speak what real lived experiences are and have it disseminated, broadcast to a wider audience through this podcast and through the release of the videos and everything like that.
But we also knew the standard demographic of Re:co participants and attendees and it was very much by design from the beginning working very closely with Matt Slater, very working very closely with Michelle Johnson and Phyllis Johnson to address this question of “how do you solve for power and equity when the people in power are the ones making decisions?”
So we really wanted to reach that audience and alert them that there are new rules of engagement. We talked about whether or not there should be some sort of operating guidelines for a diverse inclusive, workforce. Or just general ways of operating your own business and letting them know that the house really is on fire in many, many instances. And if it’s not now, it would be in the future. So it only takes an unintentional slip because you don’t have the right processes or procedures in place.
And calling out from the experience of all of these different companies that have been experiencing this in the past couple of years. And definitely more have in the past. And I’m not trying to negate the experiences of those that have not had these stories come into the social media space or have been reported on.
But all of these issues are now given a new set of… [they’re] weighted differently and [have] more gravity attached to it. Just letting them know, putting everybody on notice, that this can happen to you. It happened to SCA. We luckily were able to listen to our membership. It was really important to us. And we were able to make decisions that helped to improve our processes overall.
Peter Giuliano: Yeah, why don’t we go ahead and listen to the episode then. So we’ll start with a talk by you and then it’ll move into a panel. So let’s listen to today’s episode. So here’s Colleen Anunu opening the panel, featuring Isabella Pascoal Becker, Kimberly Easton, Doug Hewitt and Jenn Chen at Re:co’s Symposium. 2018. Colleen, thanks a lot for joining us.
Colleen Anunu: You’re welcome.
Colleen Anunu: Changing Tides is the title that we’ve chosen for the conversation, on building equity, diversity and inclusion into the coffee industry and in coffee communities and coffee businesses. Because I really wanted to locate us within current movements – and that’s a pun as well.
But you know in the time of Black Lives Matter, when we see over and over again how coffee spaces cafes and the coffee industry exclude people of color…. And I’m not just talking about the events that happened in Philadelphia of this past weekend, this is a coffee problem. It’s not one single business’ problem.
Coffee, cafes are seen generally as the first wave of gentrification and to predominantly low income and black or people of color communities. So, you know that situates coffee within that current movement.
And in the time of legislation, which is prohibiting individuals from access to public restrooms, because they don’t identify as the gender that they were assigned at birth, the SCA comes under fire from its LGBTQ members and allies because of gaps in policies and procedures that led to discrimination and exclusion from events.
And in a time of Me Too and Times Up, a prominent third wave coffee roaster in San Francisco settled a high-profile lawsuit for sexual harassment and sexual assault.
And in this case, they actually changed their name to The Tide before changing it back to Four Barrel.
So thinking about the tides and thinking about how these current movements are going to continually pull us like gravity and how we need to navigate them in order for the rising tide to lift all ships….That’s what this conversation is about.
Specialty coffee frequently congratulates itself for offsetting structural inequalities in the world. But we may be leaving people out of the conversation that defines what the specialty coffee movement is in the first place. How do we bring all types of people into the conversation about the future of specialty coffee? What are the questions we need to ask ourselves?
It also kind of differentiates us from this concept of waves. And to borrow from my good friend Trish, we’ve done that already. We’ve completed the Third Wave and she had a recent coffee event, congratulated us all because we’ve done it: we have focused on individual experience, individual choice. We have focused on conscious consumerism with quality and authenticity as a drivers to offset structural inequalities throughout the world. And we’re the first to pat ourselves on the back for that in many instances.
But we need to consider is: how many people we’re leaving out of that conversation for identifying what the coffee industry is and what our objectives are, what are our goals and what are our tactics?
And so, you know, if you think about people of color, if you think about women, gender non-conforming folks, trans folks, people that can’t speak English, even people that speak English as a second language. These are individuals that have lived experience, that have things to contribute to the conversation of “what it means to succeed in the coffee industry” and “what it means to be a leader in the coffee industry.”
And they have historically and predominantly been excluded from that conversation.
So tides and the change of the tides really, in this situation, is one about dominant power structures, right? And we’ve heard that a lot throughout the morning. That, you know, what’s happening right now and where we see a lot of the grassroots movements in the coffee culture, especially in America and predominantly in America, is focused around changing these dominant power structures so that voices and perspectives can be included.
And you can listen to a recording from the 2017 lecture at SCA, which I believe was even called Changing Power Structures or Changing Power Dynamics in the coffee industry… Where the seven people on that panel – six of whom are actually presenting over the course of this morning and then throughout tomorrow, you know because they have great perspectives – they are the first to tell you that if you haven’t seen these concepts manifest in the periphery of your business or in the broader coffee industry, then you’re not paying attention.
And if you’re not paying attention, there’s really no option anymore. You must pay attention to the conversations that are happening in the margin.
The coffee industry needs to fix marginalization – the process of pushing people to the edge of the industry by not allowing them an active voice identity or place within it. Marginalization happens in both physical and mental space i.e. the culture of the coffee industry. And anything that is considered not ‘normal’ tends to be marginalized.
So, you know, that’s sort of the question for all of us here is – how do we do that? Right? What tools do we need? How can we survive? How can we analyze our gaps, the gaps in our policies and our procedures that foster discrimination? How do we support marginalized voices in a way that values them, and that allows people to contribute to conversations that shape the future of our industry.
So that’s what this session is supposed to do. And so there’s me as a little coffee bean in a boat and that coffee bean is anyone that feels lost and feels like they’re drowning in this conversation.
So the first thing that I want to do, to set us up for the rest of the session, is to talk a little bit about marginalization. And the dominant, you know, the definition that I’m going to use is “marginalization is the process of pushing a particular group or groups of people to the edge of society or an organization or coffee industry, by not allowing them an active voice Identity or place within it.”
And when we talked about this concept on the call with the panelists last week, Isabela from Brazil said, “you know, I had to look up this concept. I had to look at a definition in Portuguese and it’s a very harsh and it’s a very violent definition. We use this for people that are criminals in our society and people that we don’t value.”
And me, as someone that’s a white person, you know, I was like, “you know, I don’t think it” – maybe in my head I was like – “I don’t think it’s that harsh because I’m super desensitized to this.” You know, this is stuff that I’ve studied for many years.
But Tymika, a black woman that’s living in New York City and is an immigrant to the United States from Belize, she said “no, you’re absolutely right, Isabela. This is very violent. It’s a very chaotic process and it’s one that, you know in many cases, is a matter of life or death for some people.”
So we have to think about marginalization much more in terms of space. And it’s both physical and mental space. Where the culture of an organization or the culture of an industry is really seen… You look at sort of what is normal, what you define as normal about your culture. And those people that identify with those concepts of what is normal within a culture, reinforce that those conceptions, through procedures and laws and institutions, policies, social networks – a lot of times – and support. And those that do not identify with those concepts of normal are pushed off to the side. Right?
And so the people that are kind of with outside of that sphere, they have to think about their proximity to what is normal. So in the United States, it’s predominantly… What’s normal is considered white male, if you were born male or assigned male at your birth and heterosexual.
Let’s just throw some of those out there for you.
So those that don’t identify as heteronormative or cisgendered male or white, they always have to think about their actions within that sort of proximity to what is normal.
And so what we see in coffee right now is that there are a number of grassroots organizations and whisper networks that are focusing on each other, that are amplifying their voice, that are finding pathways to offset, or to upset, the dominant power structures in coffee right now.
And this is just a handful of examples. And what’s cool about this is there are a number of people that founded these grassroots networks that are actually in the room today.
To begin the process of becoming a more inclusive industry, examining your unconscious bias is a popular place to start. Self-reflection and self-criticism are great ways to create a more inclusive coffee industry. Other important concepts to consider while self-reflecting: privilege, intersectionality, emotional labor and micro-aggressions.
So diversity consultants, if you hire one for your organization, they’ll probably start with an exploration of what is unconscious bias. And you might see in the news that Starbucks just announced that they are going to close a number of stores for racial bias training or unconscious bias training. And that is typically the sort of assumptions or attitudes that you hold that, when you make decisions, you make decisions based on those. And it’s a lot of times unconscious and it’s a lot of times unfounded.
You have to start considering an exploration of what your unconscious bias is. And a really interesting thought experiment that that Phyllis Johnson posed last year on that panel that I told you about, was, “if you had a handful of marbles and they were all different sorts of colors and you drop them on the floor, it would be statistically improbable for all of the green ones to segregate into the corner of the room.”
So, you know, you have to think about this and think about in all of the years of the world Barista Championships, why is there never been a female identified winner/Champion, right? You have to think about on a 20-person board of a 10,000 members Association, why is 70 percent of that male? Why is 85 percent of that white? Why is 90 percent of that heteronormative?
We have to explore that. I’m not trying to drag anybody but I’m trying to say that we have to invite the self-reflection and self-criticism in order to change the institutions that are reinforcing these things.
So a couple of other concepts that you’ll hear throughout the rest of this session that I just want to set us up, for because I want to focus on the message and not necessarily the concepts.
Privilege: We’ll start with privilege. It’s a very triggering term for many.
But if you think about that illustration that was before about proximity to normal, privilege is essentially the advantages that you have because of that, right? So as a white woman, it’s not anything that I do necessarily. It’s just kind of the way that I exist. I can just show up and breathe and benefit from being in a predominantly white space.
Intersectionality: Intersectionality is multi-dimensional and overlapping discrimination. So using myself as an example, I am a woman, there’s a certain amount of discrimination that’s already against me, but I’m a queer woman. And so in a predominantly heteronormative space I constantly have to think about how I present myself.
And the things that I say because I’m different right? I’m constantly thinking about how I’m different, how I’m perceived differently. And how do I change or code switch so that I can show up in a way that my message is the thing that’s listened to and valued and people aren’t just questioning my experience or questioning who I am as an individual.
Another story about this is after the women’s March in 2017 in Washington DC, a white male friend of mine was flipping through my Instagram feed and he said “why are there Black Lives Matter protesters at the women’s March?” I was like, “well because the experiences of black women in America are not the same as white women in America.”
It’s why we don’t stop at this concept of 77 cents on a dollar for wage inequality because that’s very much a white reality. It’s not the reality of a black woman. It’s not the reality of an Asian-American woman. It’s not for a Latina or an immigrant.
So we have to think about these overlapping forms of discrimination because everyone is different and everyone has different barriers to success.
Emotional Labor: Emotional labor. So thinking about how I need to position myself within that normative space, that’s extremely taxing. Right and I already said that I have to think about that all the time and how I show up and how I present myself. So I call this you could call it taxing, but I call it over extracted by the ignorance of actually considering me as an individual and a human that has something to contribute.
But also under extracted. So I think Michelle, said last year on that panel, imagine the sort of innovation that would happen in this space if I could just show up and contribute and that I didn’t have to justify my existence basically or justify my resume.
Micro-aggressions: Micro-aggressions is another term that you’ll hear and it’s just kind of a reminder that you are different. So it’s a gender non-conforming person in your workspace and you address them in a group of people as guys. Or you are a white person and you’re code switching to African American vernacular English when you are around your black friends. It’s these sort of things that that actually remind those individuals of their difference.
So now we’re going to switch to a panel. We’re going to discuss some inclusive businesses. And then Michelle Johnson is going to give a talk on some of the policies that she’s enacted with the support of her teammates at Barista Hustle for more inclusive conversations. And then we’re going to finish with a panel on how to have uncomfortable conversations and how to position ourselves in it.
So for the rest of the session to be great to think about think about entering into the space. You are supposed to be uncomfortable. You’re supposed to examine your identities and your benefits. So here’s a little primer on how to engage in uncomfortable conversations and it’s this little acronym: CLAIM.
So Center yourself and think about your privilege think about where you exist in that proximity to normal.
Listen to the actual lived experiences and perspectives of the people and value what they’re telling you.
Acknowledge their contribution. These people they have lives and they have other experience that they would probably love to talk to you about and their expertise but they’re here to give us all the primer on privilege and on uncomfortable conversations and on marginality. So acknowledge that this is really great emotional work that they’re doing.
Inquire. If you have the consent of these individuals or anyone else that you think wants to engage in this type of conversation tomorrow or in the coffee breaks, ask them. But value [their perspectives] and make sure that you have their consent.
And finally, Move forward. And the best way to move forward is changed behavior.
So, with that we are going to call up our first panel. So we have Kimberly Easson who’s the Strategic Director of the Partnership for Gender Equity; Doug Hewitt, who is the co-founder of 1951 Coffee in Berkeley, California; Jenn Chen who is a coffee marketer, a writer and a photographer out of San Francisco, California; and Isabela Pascoal who is the Sustainability and Impact Manager of Daterra Farms.
Hi. Welcome. Thanks for joining. So I would really love to hear from each of you about your business goals and the values that you hold as a business. And then, also, why did you build a business that prioritizes the inclusion of marginalized communities?
So we’ll start with you, Kimberly.
Kimberly Easson: The partnership for Gender Equity, we believe strongly that gender equity is the foundation for sustainability in the supply chain.
And so when we talk about marginalized communities, we’re talking about women, youth and essentially coffee farming families and workers, all of those people, who Colleen mentioned in the introduction, really don’t have a voice. And frequently are left out of conversations.
We focus on origin and particular small farmer households and producer organizations. But also recognize that the issue resonates throughout the whole coffee value chain. Many of us are trained in this sector to think about a coffee farmer as an individual, a male, and not necessarily think about who are those other people in the household. And all of those people have different concerns, different aspirations and different skills and different talents and different ways of interacting around coffee and their lives.
And, as an industry, we can be much more successful in addressing some of the challenges that we’ve been looking at during the day, by taking into account all of those different needs and perspectives and opportunities, just to build a much stronger supply chain.
So we’re working with a research focus and really working to bring across industry collaboration to try to elevate the issue, so that we can have a transformative impact on the sector that doesn’t necessarily take generations to take root. That we can actually try to have an impact in a much shorter amount of time that we can actually see as we work together towards a better future for the sector.
Doug Hewitt: So 1951 Coffee Company derives its name from the year 1951, when the United Nations first came together to define the term ‘Refugee’ and to set out the protections and the legal rights that refugees should have as they flee their home countries.
As a coffee company, we train refugees to be baristas when they first arrive in the United States and we help find placements for them in the coffee industry, primarily in the in the Bay Area, but also in San Diego right now.
We have our own cafe where we employ ten people right now and part of the reason that we do what we do… Rachel Tabor, the other co-founder, and I both used to work at the International Rescue Committee, one of the leading refugee resettlement organizations here in the United States.
And our experience working with people who are new to the country…I was working in helping refugees find jobs at that time and I would sit across the desk from someone who had just arrived in the country the day before, or a few days before. And I would be interviewing them to help develop a resume to begin the process of helping them find a job. And I would hear their stories and I would hear about the skills and the things that they had been through, you know in their lives before. War or persecution erupted and forced them to flee, hearing their experiences coming to the United States.
And then I would work with them on the process of applying for a job, going to a job interview and, over and over again, was just met with the frustration of people who are qualified… I would sit there and I would talk with him very often in English and would understand everything that they were talking about and explaining to me. And we’d go to interview after interview and hear employers say, “oh they don’t speak English,” “oh, they’re not qualified in this way.” Sometimes “oh, they’re overqualified and this is not a position that we really want to offer to them.”
And so Rachel I both had that experience of constantly coming back from those meetings and just saying, “we wish there was an employer out there who would ‘get it’. An employer who would say, ‘you know what? I’m going to open up opportunities. I’m going to make this work.” And so we founded in 1951 out of a desire to become one of those employers.
Jenn Chen: So I work in a few different disciplines. I handle marketing for Acaia, the scale company. And I’m also a writer and a photographer for a few different companies. For Acaia, most people know me as the online voice, social media product launches, sponsorship programs, and things like that. And the values that Acaia holds, there are three of them:
One: collaboration, so that’s a pretty big thing that’s been going around all day today. And that’s working with a lot of different companies to further the industry. There’s also Community, which is a huge one for us and that’s giving back into the professional community. And that doesn’t mean just supporting these kinds of events. It also means the grassroots organizations that are all around. Not just the US, but also the world.
And then Quality is last one. And that’s quality products, quality customer service. And what I wanted to talk about today, which we can go into later, is that it’s really important for me to be able to impact change where I can and have the most, to impact in.
And by that I mean… So when people think about Acaia, it’s usually the scale and they really want the scale. And since we give back into the community, we’re able to control a little more on the events that we sponsor. So that means that we can say, if you want us to sponsor, you should pay attention to who your judges are and who’s on your panels.
So part of our policy is actually not sponsoring any events that have all men on panels or all men as judges in the latte art throw down. And that seems really small. But when you’re a new barista just going to your first throw down and you see the MC, and all three judges, are men… It’s really….What’s another word for depressing? It’s sad. It’s a barrier. It’s a visual barrier and it means that that Community or whoever organized it didn’t really think that women or non-binary people were important enough to judge or MC or organized.
And then the other program that was started just two months ago is giving back to baristas who are competing and I can talk more about that later.
Isabela Pascoal: Hi, everyone. Well, my background is kind of complex. I’m the Director of Sustainability and Impact for Daterra coffee, a coffee producer in Brazil, a farm. But also for a foundation called Educa Foundation. Both of them are almost 30 years old, but I joined them in 2003. They are both a family business. And why am I saying this? Because the family values that, I learned it from the foundation, that was the base to develop Daterra coffee farm. Meaning that Daterra was born as a project to be able to produce a large volume of specialty coffee under social and sustainable and environmental practices in Brazil.
And in order to make this dream happen, we based on our values and principles that we learned from our foundation, and from our parent company, which was a tire retailer business in Brazil. That back in the 60s was one of the first companies to have a bathroom for women and also allow women to dress in pants.
So fast forwarding to Daterra – Daterra have many practices that we never thought about including. Because we always thought that that was the normal thing to do. So hire women, hire people of color, pay the same amount of money, take care of the children of employees. All that comes from our background and we just included it in the business.
So the question was: why not do that? Some companies ask, “why do you do that?” And we say “why not?” Because that really helps us make a better coffee and make a better coffee for a better planet.
So, for example, 12 percent of our truck drivers are women. We offer psychological [services], we help with health, we give wedding gifts for the workers in the farm and these are little things that represents what we think is the most important value – respect.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a woman, if it’s a people of color, or a homosexual, it doesn’t matter. We value people that are working, that are committed and are committed to our values.
So the idea here is try to give examples that it is possible to [have] good coffee production and very good values and still make money.
However, it took us 20 years to actually be able to do profit sharing. For the first 20 years of our company, we decided to invest the profit into making this project successful. And I think these required a lot of resilience. Because it’s really hard to prove that the model would work. But fortunately it did. And I’m happy to share this project so more people can replicate that.
Colleen Anunu: So thinking about sphere of influence of each of your businesses and the sort of privilege that you have within your space and with your employees or your project partners. I would really like to know, from your perspective, the type of influence that you want to have not only in your own communities, but you want to have on the broader coffee industry.
And some of the some of the barriers and challenges that you face as you are trying to engage with large organizations to help them change their sourcing practices or invest in certain programs or are done to help placement for certain individuals that you think are ready to move on to a new business and trying to find placement for them and coming up to struggles there with other businesses.
You know, same down the line. I would really love to hear how you engage in those difficult conversations and lead with your values that way.
Doug Hewitt: I would say for us, very often when we are approaching other coffee businesses in our area, we very often approach it from, first kind of talking about who we are and what we do. And I think that anyone running a business, especially when working largely with smaller independent cafes, [when] looking for the employees that they hire, they’re looking for people that they can bring in, that will be solid employees, they’re looking for people who will stay for a while and they’re also looking to cut out as much risk is as possible. I think that’s just inherent and someone who really cares about their business. They’re trying to make sure that they succeed.
And I think very often when we are approaching and talking about what we do. It is very helpful for us that we have a cafe where people who came to the US as refugees are working. And it allows us the opportunity for us to say, “come and visit our cafe, see what we’re doing, see how we’re doing it and actually learn from our baristas how they’re working with each other. How they’re navigating their cultural differences.” And allowing that to be an opportunity for people to come in and see a model where inclusion has moved beyond just putting someone in a space to say, “okay, you’re now a part of this. We’ve hired someone who’s different from the rest of our staff.” But where it’s full-on participation in the operations of the company and the leading of the company.
So that people can get a vision for “okay, this is not something that I have to be afraid of. This is something that actually can create opportunity for my company to grow beyond what it is today.” So that’s how we kind of really approach it.
Isabela Pascoal: The way you we chose… Because, at the end it’s a matter of what you choose to do. In the perspective of clients, we have a very, very good relationship with our clients because we’ve been trying and we try to develop a relationship that goes beyond price point.
So I’m very happy to say that we have clients for more than 15 years, 12 years and back then when we started opening the commercial area of Daterra, we only clients that would believe in sustainability.
We would only choose clients that either had certification or that were looking for a high quality coffee. So we believe that by doing this we extend that to that market.
But looking internally, we live in Brazil and we are medium to large farm. But we belong to a country that has. 287,000 small holders producers. And all of them represents 40 percent of the coffee-producing in Brazil. And the situation that they live in are very, very different to the situation I live. Very similar to a lot of places in Africa in Central America and sometimes they are, kind of hidden or forgotten because we are seen as a big country.
So we challenge ourselves and how we could help small producers. And we could buy from them and resell but we chose to do something different, [something] that is in our essence: research and science.
So we have research very focused on microbiology of the soil that we hope will help us to understand and to share this knowledge on how the land can still be productive so that in 2050 we will be able to be producing coffee. Not only us but everybody.
And we also research about moisture measurements. So the connection between the producer and the buyer, when they are discussing about moisture of the bean, it’s well parametrized.
So this is how we chose to extend our length from our country to our clients, pushing the inclusion of smallholder producers as well as our clients, to fulfill the whole supply chain.
So I’ve been with Acaia for over three years and I’ve watched it grow from a little past Kickstarter stage to what it is now. And I think for anyone who’s launching a business in the specialty coffee industry, connecting with the professionals inside is really strong. That doesn’t mean just listening to opinions, but it also means supporting organizations and people. And the product sponsorship program that I mentioned earlier, I launched it two months ago. And it’s global. And it’s from three years of observing conversations around gender on the competition stage. And people have lectured about this, written articles and it’s all about “there’s bias on the judging table.”Maybe there’s some bias in the competition rules themselves. There could be other barriers in place.
So I can’t really help much of that because I’m not a competitor. I’m also not a judge. But what I can help is in the products that people use. And since people already email asking for support, pretty much every day, I thought having a sponsorship program where it will break down barriers for those people would help.
So the sponsorship program is free product in exchange for promotion. Basically. However, there are limits. You have to be one or more of several criteria and that could be you’re a woman, you’re queer, your ethnic minority, a refugee, a veteran, or disabled. Oh also you’re a first-time competitor or your business isn’t supporting you financially.
So that covers a lot of ground and that’s a lot of barriers for competitors. And I’m really excited to say that just in two months, we’re supporting 20 competitors around the world and that’s 13 countries.
So that’s really exciting because it means it’s going out to a lot of different people, people who could use this and the criteria doesn’t mean that they need to win. I think that’s something that sometimes gets lost in marketing. Because in marking you think “oh, I want to support the winner because they’re going to talk about it all the time.” But like all these people who win they win because they have a whole team behind them or they get support from their companies or all that.
So if you can break down the barriers of may be donating a little cash from your company or supporting products or even just supporting a hotel stay for one person. It doesn’t matter it’s small. And this kind of support builds up over the years and people notice it gives back to your company and it’s a form of marketing. But really it’s goodwill back into the community.
Kimberly Easson: If we look at gender equity in coffee-producing countries and communities, but all the way up and down the supply chain, and we’re really able to solve it, to really elevate the issue so that we can create better outcomes across the board for the sector.
I think really the sphere of influence for this work is the whole sector and all of us. I mean gender is not only about women, females. It is about all of us in this room. It’s about everyone and every community that that we work with.
And I think we, as the global coffee sector, we have huge aspirations and huge opportunities. Not just to make the industry better for ourselves and our businesses and the people that we work with along our supply chain, but also set an example for other supply chains as well.
And yeah, just that we can really be a leader in this issue.
Colleen Anunu: So everyone here is working across International boundaries a little bit. And everyone’s working with different languages, different cultures, on a more global scale, even if it’s a local community level too.
I would like to know how these conversations that you see happening in the United States around marginalization, how these translate and how you have conversations with people from different backgrounds, that don’t engage in the same nuanced style of conversation as we do. And also what you would say to somebody that doesn’t believe value the work that you’re doing at the same time. So there’s kind of two questions in one but I say Choose Your Own Adventure. Then we’ll close out that way.
Kimberly Easson: I think the key is really listening to where the other person is coming from. So first going in and trying to understand: what are their concerns? So if you’re talking to somebody that in a particular position at a business and what are the things that they are trying to achieve and be able to then respond to that in a way that brings in your own experience and also the voice of those people maybe that aren’t in the room with you, but that can actually then translate into how the other person views the issue.
Doug Hewitt: For us, very often when we talk with employers or we’re talking with others, we end up very often talking about just making the cafe or the coffee company a more open space for everyone. Not even specifically for refugees, but finding a way to get to the core of what must make your company your company, while at the same time looking at those areas where you can broaden the rules, the ideals of your company to include people that have barriers, that may not fit into the mold that you’ve set.
And so kind of like whittling that down to where you have your essentials, but then you also have areas where you create a flexibility to bring people in and allow people to be a part of your company and feel like they belong.
Jenn Chen: So this is a huge challenge for me because it’s part of my job to communicate across language and cultural boundaries. And you can probably tell from some of the language that’s used on social media, it’s a lot more simple, the words are written in a way that non-native English speakers can understand it. And the sentences are shorter.
And so it’s also the way that I wrote the product sponsorship policy and the general policies that we have. Because I know that other languages don’t directly translate some of the words that we use, even just the words that Colleen used earlier in the intro, that doesn’t work in other countries. And that’s actually why I was very explicit in some of my criteria and why I have to keep amending what I say because it’s challenging.
And it’s a continual work and in general, I think having any sort of diversity or inclusion policy, that kind of work isn’t like a one-and-done kind of thing. You don’t just write the policy and you’re done. It’s continuous work.
Like do you have only white hands making coffee and black hands picking coffee? Maybe you should change that up. Is that something in your power to change? And if it is, think about changing that. Those are small, small things that you can do and if it’s in your power,
I would encourage you to change it.
Isabela Pascoal: I think it follows to understand what prevents other people into not doing something.
And I think listening to their background and to their arguments would help a lot to find the right puzzle to unlock the system.
But also thinking about the business, it’s a matter of choice and purpose. As much as it looks very normal now, these terms, “purpose.” But it’s a choice you make when you are starting a business. “Am I going to be able to think more in a collective way or in a personal way?”
“I’ll be able to not to have profit for a certain amount of time into making a really sustainable farm. Am I able to do that? What am I going to do with that?”
So I guess it’s a matter of choice and purpose. And to convince other people, the first thing is to understand what is preventing them not to be doing this?
But above all it shows there’s a respect to understand the ecosystem too.
Colleen Anunu: Thank you.