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BLOG: Ethical Coffee and Sustainable Business Practices by Lisa Lawson, Founder, Dear Green Coffee Roasters

Posted: 2020-02-13 12:01:30

BLOG: Ethical Coffee and Sustainable Business Practices by Lisa Lawson, Founder, Dear Green Coffee Roasters
When asked to write a blog post for Living Wage Scotland there was no stopping me. The truth is I can’t comprehend businesses who don’t pay this basic cost of living. When I look back on my own work experiences I question why I chose to work in the hospitality industry. My first job as a waitress brought me the princely earnings of £2 per hour. My degree from The Scottish Hotel School had me writing essays on low pay, long hours and adverse working conditions. Working as a chef paid me through Uni but those tip jar earnings were unreliable.
Fast Forward to over a decade later, some time in the wine and coffee industry and I wasn't earning much more than what I had been at the start of my working life. I had mounting personal debts and something had to change.
When I set up Dear Green Coffee Roasters in 2011 as a solo pursuit, I had no idea I would be hiring a full team of awesome staff and that I would still be running a growing company to this day. Setting up a coffee roastery was to follow a passion but was also a desperate response to escape an employment situation where I felt undervalued and was most certainly being underpaid. I had no business plan for Dear Green but I had morals and standards and a work ethic which unbeknown to me would soon become the founding business values of Dear Green and the overriding culture of the company.
Every employee since the company was founded has received the Real Living Wage as a minimum. Now with a team of ten and counting, Dear Green also has a profit share bonus scheme along with several other programs investing in personal and professional development, training and well being. The cost to the business is probably a higher wage bill than other similar organisations, this forces us to keep a closer eye on our outgoings and have less expenditure on the unnecessary. We consider the price of employment to be an investment and our staff to be our biggest asset and greatest ambassadors.
I’m fortunate to get to hang out with an incredible team every day who are committed to the same ideals as Dear Green was set up with and who all work extremely hard to ensure targets are met without compromise. Their dedication helps shape a company which has respect for people and ultimately allows all involved to be a valued member of a progressive, successful, fulfilling and ethical work experience. Working in a small team requires everyone to be multi skilled to support various job roles to help us to grow. The Real Living Wage has helped attract a team who are invested in the same business philosophy, are collectively driven by the same goals and achievements.
The benefits don't stop there, our attrition rate is extremely low compared to those industry norms I first learned about as a student. Dear Green not only has a highly motivated team with high productivity but the business benefits from low absenteeism and continues to attract even more like minded applicants who are keen to join us. We show respect and receive it in return from the wider business community, from our loyal customers and our stakeholders and we are welcomed into new networks where ethical business practices are commended.
The product we work with does have an influence on the ethical decisions made at Dear Green. Many of the countries, regions and coffee producers we source our raw product from lack the infrastructure and basic employment rights which we take for granted in the UK. We source through a supply chain with absolute transparency and traceability to producers in developing countries. At Dear Green we are all too aware of the need to make humanitarian choices. There should never be a question around being able to simply pay someone enough to live on...
It makes me extremely proud that Dear Green can be a positive example in Scotland of how to respect a workforce. People are more important than financial gain and ultimately a happy
workplace contributes towards a sustainable business model and has proven to fuel growth of turnover and profit as a direct result. Employers have a lot to gain from realising that investing in their team is actually investing in their own future and that using business as a force for good can only be positive for all.

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