During the last semester of my college career, I had the opportunity to intern at Amavida Coffee and Tea from December 2013 through May 2014. At this time, Amavida Coffee became one of the first 1,000 Certified B Corporations. Since, I have grown into a full-time position and have had the privilege to fortify the company’s purpose-driven practices into a written framework. Beyond my contributions, I have been fortunate to witness the work of the talented individuals who drive the organization. Allow me to share in more detail as I reflect on three primary lessons I have learned along the way.
Among the first lessons I learned was the importance of maintaining a strong foundation. In 2013, Amavida Coffee began pursuing B Corporation Certification by volunteering to assess its impact; the company wanted to learn where it was doing well and discover where it could improve. Then Amavida Coffee went one step further, amending its articles to become a legally-recognized Benefit Corporation and further solidify sustainability into its structure. Working with the company through the B Corporation Certification process and becoming a Florida Benefit Corporation taught me the significance of individual and collective accountability.
In my effort to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle, I assessed my living situation regarding where my household supplies came from and their environmental impact. I was off to a good start and immediately surprised when I saw how many B Corporations were already around, from Seventh Generation laundry detergent to King Arthur Flour. Recognizing I was already supporting B Corporations around the house wasn’t enough, though. I began seeking out other products by local or sustainably certified sources to purchase when possible. I also realized, between myself and my roommates, that my household created a large amount of paper waste. Now that we identified an area of improvement, we had a responsibility to change for the better. I committed to only using “real” serveware, regardless of the extra dishes I must do. We further reduced waste when we saved 52 egg cartons and over 100 toilet paper and paper towel rolls in 2014 to reuse for compost. This will help us grow a small portion of our groceries in 2015, therefore reducing cost and consumption. Like Amavida Coffee, we may have already been doing good work, but we realized there will always be ways to do better. A strong foundation must be maintained and should be solid in upholding its purpose. A community of individuals and institutions who are firm in this belief and consistent in its pursuit are a powerful force with the promise of positive impact.
My experiences with Amavida Coffee have also empowered me to see where I bring value and make a difference in the world. Recently, while working on the company’s first annual Benefit Corporation Sustainability Report I got a full view of the initiatives and their outcomes regarding Amavida Coffee’s social, economic, and environmental performance. Considering the company’s accomplishments, such as recycling 5 tons of paper and cardboard, I began to think of each action the Amavida Coffee team took to achieve their goal. Each small step brought value and made a difference in the world.
Another occasion when I witnessed several small actions lead to an awesome outcome was working with the Amavida Coffee to help host the Winter Solstice Run. Amavida Coffee coordinated with On The Ground Global to host fundraising events, accumulate runners, enlist volunteers and sponsors, obtain permits, plan the route, and host the Winter Solstice Run itself. All of the activities for the Winter Solstice Run supported Project Congo and raised awareness and funds for gender equality initiatives in the communities of coffee producers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One project particularly mention-worthy, stemming from the Winter Solstice Run, are the Project Congo coffee bags. For each bag of coffee, sourced from a particular cooperative in the Democratic Republic of Congo, $5 is donated to support female farmers and their families. Adding up the impacts of Amavida Coffee’s initiatives, watching those working around me, and realizing my own part in it all, I see the potential we each have to support sustainability in small ways which can be pivotal in the big picture.
Finally, I have been reminded that it is important to embrace challenges and work with a purpose. Among the company’s highlights are its ethical leadership and communication practices. Various divisions of leadership meet weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly to review performance, address problems, and discover solutions. The company tackles challenges by looking for more than simple solutions. At all levels, every decision that is made is first passed through a filter to address benefits to or impacts on
the community, suppliers, customers, employees, and environment. Practices like this allow Amavida Coffee to implement improvements or growth initiatives with a level of mindfulness and connectivity that results in positive impacts. Amavida Coffee’s aim is to support sustainable business and improve quality of life for those with whom they work, and to develop long-lasting, healthy relationships. Sustainability is achieved by helping others position themselves to achieve successful and purposeful lives. The company works in several ways with farmers, customers, staff, and students to do exactly that. In my experiences with Amavida Coffee, I have been inspired to view challenges as opportunities to be better and to work with the intention of achieving positive impacts. What we do on a daily basis matters. B Corporations talk about how working with a purpose creates ripples in the lives of those around us. By making it a mission to find solutions that create meaningful change, one person or business can make waves and move mountains.
All in all, my schooling prepared me to work in the world, but Amavida Coffee has paved a path for me and many others to make a difference in our local communities and in communities abroad. Working with a company that has such strong values and work ethic has helped me to build my own moral foundation and has given purpose to my personal and professional pursuits. What is even better than realizing my own growth from working with a B Corporation is knowing that many people would agree that B Corporations create meaningful change in the lives of those with whom they work.