Coffee for the Future: Becoming B Corp Certified
Since Rosso’s inception in 2007, we’ve searched for ways to do better business. This drive has led to us pursuing and becoming B Corp Certified, which is “...a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials” [link]. Acquiring the certification entails filling out a detailed questionnaire regarding your company’s practices. Evidence is provided to B Lab, the organization that designs the B Corp Certification, to verify their practices.
We’re proud of how we have grown over the past 15 years and of the practices that lead us to acquiring this certification. During the application we highlighted our Rosso Direct coffee Trade buying philosophy, use of compostable packaging, culture of long term employee development and community focus.
Rosso Direct Trade
As our company began to roast and eventually to purchase coffee directly from producers, our awareness of the entwined nature of the coffee industry also grew. Coffee producers are the lifeblood of our industry, putting in an immense amount of work to cultivate and harvest the flavourful seeds we enjoy each morning.
We started visiting farms out of an understanding that the status quo for purchasing coffee was inadequately meeting the needs of many producers. The majority of coffee is traded using the commodity market price, which continually fluctuates. In the past five years the price has been on average $1.42 USD/lb ($1.88 CAD/lb), but has also drifted as low as $0.87 USD/lb ($1.15 CAD/lb) in 2019 and as high as $2.58 USD/lb ($3.42 CAD/lb) in 2022 [link]. Since contracts are tied to the current commodity price most producers do not have direct influence over the price of their product. This has major implications when the commodity price falls below a producer's cost of production.
We chose an alternative approach. We organize prices with producers or their representatives directly, a practice we call Rosso Direct Trade. Following a direct trade philosophy allows us to do business in a way that respects the agency of our fellow humans who we rely on for delicious coffee. In 2022 we paid on average $4.03 USD/lb ($5.44 CAD/lb) to producers, a far cry from the commodity price.
Low Waste Packaging
We’re acutely aware of the single use nature of many of the products that underpin our business. This motivated us to seek out alternatives to our retail coffee bag, take away containers and newly launched coffee capsules.
Our Biotrē™ 2.0 coffee bags are “60% compostable, with nearly all plant-based, renewable film layers”[link]. The internal lining of the bag is sugar cane derived bioplastic that will biodegrade in 10 years versus the 1000 year timeline of the petroleum-based plastic lining of typical coffee bags.
The majority of our take away food and drink containers are BPI Certified compostable [link], meaning they will break down in an industrial composting facility in 3 months, or are otherwise recyclable. Our coffee capsules are certified compostable by TÜV Austria [link], though the sealing foil must go in the garbage. The capsules will safely biodegrade slowly in a home composting or an industrial composting facility. We admit these are imperfect solutions to single-use plastic waste and we are keeping a vigilant eye out for improvements in compostable packaging.
An important aspect of our culture at Rosso is providing a high level of skill training for baristas. Our training program has slowly evolved into something more akin to an apprenticeship program for a trade. In contrast, most barista or food service jobs are treated as low skilled work that requires minimal training. New baristas at Rosso are given extensive training during onboarding, as well as further training over their tenure to develop their understanding of coffee and their skills as a barista.
Another limitation placed on cafe work is on the ability to advance within the company. At Rosso it is our policy to promote from within the company when opportunities for leadership positions become available. We are eager to help our staff grow within the organization as their skills develop
Charitable Giving in our Community
Calgary is our home and we’re grateful for everyone who’s walked through the doors of our cafes. Being part of a lively community of creative and thoughtful people from all walks of life is what keeps us going. Each year we give back to the community in various forms, including monetarily or with donated coffee. In 2022 we donated a total of $46,903 ($37,428 monetarily and $9475 in product) to various groups, events and charities including the Calgary Humane Society, the Skipping Stone Foundation and Calgary Queer Arts Society.
Just the Beginning of our Journey
Achieving this milestone has shown us where we’ve succeeded and shown us a clear path for continued improvement. We’ll keep you updated as we make advances in our goal to reduce our environmental impact and support our local and global coffee community. Until then, we hope you’ll enjoy your next cup of Rosso Direct Trade coffee, whether it’s at one of our Calgary cafe’s, with one of our wholesale partners, or in your kitchen (don't forget to put the coffee grounds in the compost 😉).
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