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Working with stakeholders to create regenerative coffee supply chains
In nearly 90 years of business, illycaffè has grown into a global company supplying more than 8 million cups of coffee daily in more than 140 countries. While this growth has meant many changes for the family-owned Italian business, it has maintained its focus on quality products that are beneficial for the people who make them and the communities where they live.
I had the opportunity to talk to Andrea Illy, the company’s chairman and a member of the third generation to run the company. We discussed why and how businesses can further stakeholders’ interest and the company’s work on regenerative agriculture. Below are some of the key points from my Forbes article on the topic that highlights the work of illycaffè:
illycaffè is committed to work together with their suppliers. “We pioneered direct sourcing, 30 years ago, working with them to elevate their agronomic practices and provide a full traceability of the beans. We also pay a sustainable price that allows us to build the community of growers, which is perpetual and continuously improving.” Illy says.
Technology also contributes to illy’s success. “We are, to my knowledge, the most innovative coffee company in the world. The same formula of the espresso technology known in the world today was developed by my grandfather, who was the first to add pressure in order to get a lower temperature.” Illy says. “One of the proprietary technologies we developed in packaging allows us to prevent coffee from any oxidation, but it also captures that coffee flavor. This allows the coffee to age like wine.” He adds.
Illy believes businesses need to put stakeholder interests as their key priorities. He explains that ‘Governments don’t have the capacity to make this change themselves. This is the reason why we believe that corporations shall not simply pursue profit, per se, but they shall be profitable in order to finance their development and to pursue purpose — improving society, improving quality of life of stakeholders.”
Education is an important part of illy’s commitment to stakeholder interests. “We pursue social sustainability through the principle of personal development and growth. This is why we created the University of Coffee, which is present in 26 countries and as many 300,000 participants census, since it started over 20 years ago.” Illy says. “To get quality we needed to transfer knowledge to them, so they had the capacity to improve the quality of the sustainability of their production. ”
“Soil health and human is what we are pursuing with our regenerative agriculture framework now. In coffee, we are starting to pilot plantations to be carbon free. The net zero agronomic practices that we will develop in these coffee plantations then will be taught to growers through the University of Coffee.”
He says the company is working towards a net-zero coffee agriculture. “With thorough research we determined that what is needed first is improving the agronomic practices; second, developing new cultivars and varieties that are more resilient to the effects of climate change; and third, to migrate coffee plantations to higher latitudes or higher altitudes.”
All these points and principles stood out to me as important and complex ways that working with stakeholders is essential to address sustainability issues, such as becoming net zero and helping address topics like climate change.