This article is part of a bi-monthly series focusing on bringing truly sustainable business practices to the restaurant industry. This series has been created in partnership with Thrive Farmers International, a leader in revolutionizing the coffee industry and teaching others to do things differently.

Thrive was founded from the ground up to ensure that farmers flourish by bringing renewed hope to coffee and tea-growing communities forced to look for other ways to survive. In the restaurant and beverage world, it seems that everyone has a story but when you scratch the surface – it is only that – a story. Stories sound good, but your customers are demanding more.

Do something greatHow do you compete in the marketplace and differentiate yourself from the competitor? Stories are no longer sufficient. Consumers are basing their buying decisions and developing brand loyalties with those that are walking the talk – companies creating actual social and environmental impact. Businesses can make the case that by doing good, their customer base will increase.

The 2014 Nielsen Global Corporate Social Responsibility Report demonstrated that each year more and more consumers are making buying decisions around brands making a positive impact in the world. As of the date of the study, 55 percent of the 30,000 consumers surveyed will pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive, social and environmental impact. Additionally, 52 percent of consumers made at least one purchase in the past six months from one or more socially responsible companies. One half of those consumers are millennials.

In a 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study, “more than 9-in-10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause,” and millennials are “prepared to make personal sacrifices to make an impact on issues they care about, whether that’s paying more for a product, sharing products rather than buying or taking a pay cut to work for a responsible company.”

It is not conjecture anymore. Consumers are digging deeper, voting with their dollars and no longer listening to what the seller has to say. They are searching for brands that are transparent and committed to living up to their values in a verifiable way.

We at Thrive converse with companies everyday regarding the response to this new and powerful reality. A beverage strategy that communicates your company’s dedication to research, commitment to positive social and environmental impact as well as a willingness to fund and execute that innovative strategy will result in increased sales.

Sales are not the only piece of an increased ROI based on the research. As brand loyalty is more affected by a company’s real positive impact in the world, customers become your best salespeople. They will shout from the rooftops that they have decided to support your brand because of their own decision to make a positive impact, and they know that your company really cares. Your brand then becomes their means to doing good.

We see this new reality as our restaurant business people and customers learn about the impact the coffee and tea they drink has on the farmers that grow it. One restaurant owner said this in a recent social media post to his customers, “I am honored to be a small part of selling a delicious line of coffee products at my restaurant, that in turn provides a better life for our farmers and their families. I will never look at coffee the same way again.”

Make a change in your beverage strategy without settling for a marketing story. Look for the opportunity to have real impact and give your customers the opportunity to join your brand in changing the world for the better.


Kenneth Lander is the co-founder and chief sustainability officer at Thrive Farmers International
. Thrive Farmers was founded in 2011 to transform the coffee industry by connecting farmers to consumers through a new supply chain. To learn more about Thrive, visit their website or follow them on Twitter at @ThriveFarmers.