Sprout co-founder Steve Joy talks about their journey to BCorp certification

“Sprout grew from the seed of an idea – a commitment to sustainability and doing good office coffee that does good. When we discovered BCorp, we knew it was something we had to be a part of…” July is BCorp month, time to celebrate how we do better business in a better way. We asked Sprout co-founder, Steve Joy, how he got started on his sustainability journey, why he thinks it’s important to run a business that balances purpose with profit and what that means for his customers.

How did you get started working in coffee?

I first began making coffee in 1999 at the Observatory café in Melbourne’s botanic gardens. After leaving Uni in 2003, I started my first coffee cart business and by 2007, I was General Manager of Map Coffee. That’s where I met Ed [Sladen] who started with Map in 2012 as Map’s Corporate Sales Manager.

How did you get the idea for Sprout Coffee?

Ed and I had both been working in the coffee industry for a while and specifically in office coffee, supplying some of the largest companies in the country. Watching the rise in coffee and tea consumption and seeing the increase in waste to landfill as a result, we knew there had to be a better way. At the same time, we were seeing more demand for ethical sourcing and sustainable practices so we set out to meet those needs and lead the way in end-to-end sustainable office coffee solutions.

What inspired you to make sustainability a focus?

Focusing on sustainability made sense from every aspect. From the type of business we wanted to be part of, to what the market wants and needs. Whilst price is still a key factor for office and corporate clients, acting responsibly is an increasingly significant priority. People are moving away from disposable habits and realising that convenience is no good if it comes at a cost to the environment. They’re looking for more sustainable solutions – and that’s what we set out to provide.

Sustainability is a broad area. What are the key priorities for Sprout Coffee?

We work hard to minimise our impact on the environment in as many ways as possible. When we started out, no-one was recycling coffee grounds into compost, so returning nutrient rich coffee grounds back into the soil was a priority. We prioritise ethical sourcing (Fairtrade), and minimise energy consumption through carbon offsets. Right now, we’re working towards being waste free – and we’re not too far away. For example, we’re putting a lot of time and energy into the research and development of fully compostable or recyclable coffee packaging where even the one-way valve [that lets gas out but no air in] can be composted.

What was your mission from the outset?

To be the leader in sustainable office coffee in the Australian market and to create greater awareness of sustainability within the communities we serve.

How have you managed to embed sustainable thinking within Sprout?

It’s just what we do every day. All of our systems and processes have been designed with sustainability as the key requirement. I guess it’s always front of mind in our decision making, but we don’t even think about it as ‘sustainable thinking’ – it’s just how we do business.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I really enjoy working with good people – with our team, partners and customers. Because we’ve made a clear decision to focus on sustainability, we find that the people we work with have the same focus. We’re lucky to be working with some really fantastic individuals.

What does a typical day at Sprout HQ look like?

Our days are diverse as we address both the strategic and operational needs of the business. That means everything from planning for growth, to managing new business enquiries, exploring R&D, adhering to sustainability governance, and of course prioritising everything that’s involved with keeping our customers happy. Ed and I both have young families so we get to the office around 7am and leave around 4.30pm to get home for the kids’ dinner, bath and bed. We both then tend to work a bit more at home. It’s an even earlier start for Greg and the delivery crew who are on the road from 4.30am to service and fill our customers’ coffee machines with the beans they need to start their day!

What have you implemented in your business processes and service delivery that changes office coffee for the better?

We collect all our customers’ waste coffee grounds and have them composted. We carbon offset our coffee machines and delivery vehicles, and reuse or recycle everything we can within our supply chain including pallets, packaging and cardboard.

What companies or organisations have you partnered with to help achieve your goals?

The Melbourne Zoo has been wonderful in helping us compost our coffee since we began and many local recycling companies have been great in accepting our soft plastics. Then of course there’s the BCorp network which is a great community to be a part of. Here you have a whole bunch of people who are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and who genuinely want to help and collaborate to make things happen.

Have your suppliers been cooperative in complying to Sprout standards? Has this had a knock-on effect to the way they do business?

Yes, we’re positively influencing our suppliers and they’ve been great. Core suppliers are working with us to source better packaging solutions and are trying to implement the same solutions for their whole business operations, which is pretty amazing.

What are you doing to help your customers improve their sustainability measures? What does your service mean for their business?

We help make sustainability tangible in the office environment by showing that even small things make a big difference. When staff dump their coffee grounds into the bench-top bins we provide, each person is actively making a choice to divert waste from landfill. We’re proud to be contributing to this awareness and behaviour change, and we believe it filters through to other consuming habits.

What do you do at Sprout to ensure that you continuously seek to improve your sustainability measures? What sort of governance is in place to ensure that you achieve this?

We built sustainability into our business model but made this ‘official’ by gaining ISO 14001 certification. This proves that we follow an Environmental Management System that forms the basis of how we operate every day. We’re audited every year and part of our performance measurement is demonstrating how we continue to improve. We’re also audited for compliance and progress for our Fairtrade and HACCAP certifications. And of course, BCorp is all about being transparent about how we set and achieve clear, specific environmental goals. Becoming BCorp certified is a real challenge (which is a good thing, because it means not everyone can do it) and we underwent a rigorous certification process. All our certifications help build trust with our customers and demonstrates commitment to our values and dedication to being a for purpose business.

What was the last big sustainability achievement that you celebrated?

Getting through our last set of audits was good! But we recently became part of the GCNA, attending the inaugural Australian conference which was an amazing event. It’s the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative and something we’re hugely proud to be a part of.   To find how you could be enjoying the benefits of your own sustainable office coffee supply, phone 1300 870 151 or book a free Sprout Coffee trial online today.