Good Coffee

In a world of greenwashing and corporate philanthropy platitudes, how do the truly good stand out? We speak to Adrian Evans, co-founder of Social Impact Coffee, a new brand (and client) challenging the meaning of profit…

Why launch Social Impact Coffee now?

Firstly, in my world of corporate hospitality, I began to notice a human value shift, where people want their actions to have purpose, with a particular impact on community. There is a lot of talk about this being led by a younger generation, but this is happening to everyone, to all of us. You only have to look at the ongoing Great Resignation to see that people in their 50s are demanding more of the big organisations that employ them.

Secondly, two of my children are on the autism spectrum and I learned that 73% of people with neurodiverse conditions are not in meaningful paid employment. That was a trigger for me; surely we can do better than this? My children are high-functioning and they’ll go on to be better things than me, but when you read a stat like that, it gets you thinking. So I started to have conversations with like-minded people, including the team at Without, about a different way to do business. Those conversations led to Social Impact Coffee.

How does Social Impact Coffee do business differently?

For big corporations, philanthropy used to mean donating 1% of net profits to charity once a year. And then you had a wave of unregulated social enterprises. I wanted to tackle problems directly in the community with maximum impact. Community Interest Companies are different because they invest 65% of profits into community causes and are regulated. So if we have a tech client who wants to support a mental health charity, we can contribute directly to the cause. 

This isn’t about creating another coffee brand, but about creating amazing experiences for our clients in their offices so that they can attract great people with purpose. We want to disrupt this market because there are too many people saying they’re doing wonderful things when, in fact, is it just social-washing? Social Impact Coffee will support organisations that align with our values and our client’s values, and that are also signed off by the regulator, who does the necessary due diligence. Business is growing up.

How viable are Community Interest Companies (CIC) as profitable business models and can any type of brand adopt it?

You can sell any product or service with this model. People asked me why I didn’t set up Social Impact Coffee as a charity. The answer is that a charity doesn’t have the same drive as a business to grow. The CIC model offers the opportunity to scale, in a way that a charity doesn’t. The 35% of profits go directly back into the business. Progressive companies recognise that this is where the world is heading.

There are significant pressures on businesses across the board and the easy thing to do is cut headcount and look at margins. But companies need to think differently because that approach doesn’t align with the values of their workforce. That doesn’t mean you need to become a CIC. But you need to make sure your brand is purpose-driven. If you’re a commodity-based product or service, what purpose can you place within your space that makes a connection with your teams and customers, and sends a message as an organisation? How do you create emotional connections?

So why coffee?

When lots of people do small things multiple times – like drinking a cup of coffee – you get a big impact. It’s only coffee. But serving premium coffee in the workplace, that has real purpose behind it, allows companies to connect with their employees. We’re proposing to put roasteries on client sites to truly engage with their teams as they walk into the building, to create a sensory experience, to make a connection with a unique blend, roasted and blended on site. This isn’t commodity coffee; these are Q-graded rated 80+. There’s no point providing free coffee that’s mediocre when people have better quality coffee at home.

What does success look like for Social Impact Coffee?

I would love to see this brand scale across the UK and to look at other products, because for me, it’s about the model and maximising the returns to the organisations we’re supporting. We’d love to collaborate with other brands, too. This isn’t just about the co-founders of Social Impact Coffee; this is a movement of like-minded people with purpose. We want to make the biggest social impact we can.

Why did you choose Without?

Because Without look to disrupt and do things differently. I don’t want to settle for what everyone else does; I want thought behind everything we do. And that’s what I like about Without – they challenge, for all the right reasons, right down to the details. And then you come out of a process like that with real conviction. 

What do you like best about the branding?

The tone of voice is my favourite part. There were moments in the ideation session where elements of tone came across and that’s when we realised that we had something special. That’s what Without do really well – it’s subtle and it’s clever.

Read the full case study here.

Without create brands that make a difference. Receive our Defining Your Difference pocket guide to your inbox or if you’d like to discuss how your brand can connect with today’s consumers, get in touch on 02070999080 or [email protected]

This article first appeared in The Brief, a monthly email with conversations and provocation for leaders and founders of brands . Just sign up here to receive it directly to your inbox – and join the debate.

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