Blog 31.07.19

Which coffee brands tell their sustainability stories best?

Whether it’s a flat white or an instant hit, most of us want to know that our coffee comes from sustainable sources.

Or so it may seem from the efforts by coffee brands to tell us about the source of their arabicas or robustas. 

Coffee is all about the story and most coffee brands have become expert story tellers.

We set out to find out if the leading coffee brands have a good story to tell about their sourcing, and how well they tell it – ranking their performance.   

We did the same a little while back for soft commodity traders – the companies that sell to the food processors and brands – finding a mixed performance. 

Given the high level of interest in coffee sustainability, our expectations were high for coffee.

We thought coffee brands would all have fascinating tales about their sourcing.  And would be telling them brilliantly on their websites.  Not so. Their performance is mixed, ranging from fresh-roasted to over-boiled.    

What we did

We looked at 11 major brands in Europe and the USA: Costa Coffee, Douwe Egberts, Dunkin Donuts, Illy, Keurig, Lavazza, McDonald’s, Nescafé, Nespresso, Starbucks and Taylors.

The inclusion of McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts in our list may seem surprising, but they sell a lot of coffee and make a big thing about the quality of their product.

How we did it

Our methodology is simple.  

First, we scored if the brand has a good story to tell – from 0 (poor) to 10 (excellent):

• Does the brand have a sustainable sourcing strategy with timebound and measurable goals that cover the environmental, social and economic issues facing coffee farms?

• Has the brand reported against its sustainability strategy since 2017?

Second, we scored how well the story is told – from 0 (poor) to 10 (excellent) across four categories:

• Messaging: Does the brand tell its sustainable sourcing story clearly and concisely?

• Liveliness: Has the brand shared progress in the last three months via a blog or news update?

• Multimedia: Does the brand make good use of videos and/or infographics to explain its sustainable sourcing strategy in a sharable, engaging way?

• Social media: How often does the brand share sustainable coffee sourcing posts on Twitter? On average, what level of engagement (comments, likes, shares) do these posts generate? (We chose Twitter because it is the most widely used by brands on sustainability issues).

And now the winners

The joint winners are McDonald’s and Nescafé.  Coming in a close third is Illy.

We’re not in the business of intentionally embarrassing people, so we don’t publish the full ranking.  We have been in touch with all 11 brands to share their ranking and to check that we got our facts right.

Read our report to find greater detail on our methodology and, more important, examples of good communications practice among the world’s leading coffee brands.

Which Coffee Brands Tell Their Sustainability Story Best? Email for a copy.

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