In a world where demand for corporate social responsibility and ethical business practices is rapidly growing, sustainability is a virtue among businesses.
To achieve a sustainable business model as well as create and contribute to sustainable livelihoods for communities in which an organisation operates is an ideal that many businesses strive to achieve.
Vava Coffee Ltd, a coffee company based outside Nairobi, is one such business. The firm is successfully honouring its commitment to sustainable practices for the business and the community.
A social enterprise founded in 2009 by entrepreneur Vava Angwenyi, Vava Coffee specialises in premium quality, ethically sourced products.
While it has received recognition both at home and abroad — it was a top-12 finalist at the BBC World Challenge Competition in 2011 — its greatest achievements are its continued engagement with smallholder farmers and women infected by HIV/Aids in local slums and the way it has pioneered value addition in the coffee industry.
These factors of Vava Coffee’s business model justify the company’s well-deserved reputation of being a corporate leader for its strength in ethical considerations and sustainable practices.
Working with smallholder farmers allows Vava Coffee to source its coffee locally.
Vava Coffee provides the farmers with education, training, and machinery to further their agricultural knowledge and expertise, thereby creating sustainability for their operations.
Vava Coffee packages its coffee in vibrant, colourful cloth bags sewn by women in local slums affected or infected with HIV/Aids. This is conducive to a sustainable business model as it provides Vava Coffee with a group of workers who will remain loyal to the firm and produce high quality packaging.
Sustainable livelihoods are achieved for these women as their position with Vava Coffee generates consistent income as well as a respected place in the community.
Because Vava Coffee empowers these women, they are unlikely to leave their position or produce something inferior in quality, and in business worker retention and high quality production are always greatly valued.
These win-win scenarios exemplify the power and potential each business has when it undertakes an ethical commitment to sustainable business and community development.
Africa is rich in natural resources but the continent is not known for adding value to its raw materials.
This is a loss for African business owners and workers alike as it results in foreign companies capitalising on the value addition piece while employing non-Africans.
Vava identified this weak link in African business practices and was determined to blaze a new trail in African entrepreneurship by adding value to her coffee.
By working with smallholder coffee farmers, packaging coffee while empowering women with hardships, and adding profiles of the individuals involved with the particular coffee package’s production, Vava is working toward her goal of creating a globally recognisable, sustainable brand that stays with the consumer forever.
Vava hopes that this will encourage other African entrepreneurs to utilise local services and labour to adopt value addition in its practices, which will ultimately contribute to the sustainability of the Kenyan economy.
By demonstrating that sustainable practices are attainable, Vava Coffee also manifests the benefits of creating and maintaining an ethically sound business plan. It also shows that these benefits are not solely enjoyed by the business but that they can extend to the community at large.
Ethics in business is not just a nice idea. It is a smart investment any organisation can make.