Ethical suppliers: Origin Coffee

Origin Staff Events Trailer

With more than 60% of younger consumers closely considering a company’s ethical values and authenticity before making a purchase, it has never been more important to source from ethical suppliers that share your beliefs.

Why do ethical suppliers matter?

The products or ingredients that you source directly impact your business, playing a key role in consumers’ decision to make a purchase in a coffee shop, or order a drink in any other type of hospitality business. Ethical suppliers are able to provide supply chain transparency, explaining the reasons that buying from them can have a positive impact on your the planet.

Origin Director of Coffee, Freda Yuan. Gary Handley.

Origin Coffee: Ethical Suppliers

Modern Hospitality spoke with Origin Coffee about their approach to wholesale coffee, using their direct trade practice to support their farm and mill partners directly.

Here’s what Origin Coffee had to say about their journey and experiences as ethical suppliers.

The evolution of Origin Coffee as ethical suppliers

Back in 2004, when the Origin story began, the UK speciality coffee was a fledgling industry. Tom, Origin’s Owner and Founder, approached the businesses development in a way that was flexible and dynamic, and was able to experiment. Tom had always been involved in the industry, working for his father’s coffee business growing up. But it wasn’t until he experienced Australia’s progressive coffee culture first-hand during a trip in the early 2000’s that the idea for Origin was born. 

“Since 2004, the Origin journey has been one of exploration and collaboration. What we do has changed over the years, but our approach remains the same. Ultimately, it’s about respect – for the people, the process, the coffee, the brewing. We simply focus on making the coffee the best it can be. And will continue to do this.” – Tom Sobey, Owner and Founder, Origin

Origin now has a team of coffee professionals, a world-class coffee programme, seven coffee shops and a curated, and ever-evolving product range. Sitting proudly as one of the longest-standing speciality coffee roasters on UK shores, with a mission to become the leading and most progressive coffee roaster in Europe.

Origin_Direct Trade

Advice for any other businesses looking to become more sustainable and ethical

“Sustainability and the environment play a key part of our thinking here at Origin, and as a business, Origin avoids greenwashing at all costs. We won’t make bold statements unless we can back them up and demonstrate how we are going to action them, and we recommend other businesses do the same. No business is 100% perfect in the way they operate, and we are aware that this is a journey of continuous improvement.

“In terms of the first steps of working to become more sustainable, and fully accountable, must be a companywide audit. Establishing exactly how much of each resource the company is using and where savings and initiative should be focused to have the greatest impact.   

“This could be as simple as changing energy supplier to moving away from fossil fuel use or introducing a cycle to work scheme to reduce commuting emissions. Regularly auditing our processes, particularly waste and recycling helps us to reduce our impact by changing the materials we use and/or look for new ways to reduce and reuse products.  

“Costs for packaging and for waste disposal are increasing sharply so by reducing both, a company is not just saving money but also reducing their carbon footprint and contribution to global climate change. ”

Origin Filter Coffee

What drives you to have a positive impact and what are your plans?

Origin Coffee uses its business as a force for good, utilising every opportunity to make a positive impact on both the planet and their customers.

“Origin is a certified B Corporation (B Corp). B Corp is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. This includes an assessment, with a 360° evaluation of a company’s operations and business model. Looking at how this impacts their employees, community, environment, and customers.

“It’s the gold standard of sustainability and an important validation of who we are and what we do. We’re driven to continue this mission, as a further demonstration of intent. Not only continuing to work in a responsible way, but constantly striving to do better. 

“An important milestone for Origin in 2021 was committing to Net Zero by 2030. We laid out a roadmap in our 2020 Sustainability Report, which included annual targets and longer-term targets.  The progress towards this goal will be reported annually and published.   

“Alongside this, Origin has invested in launching new packaging in 2022, which uses plant-based materials rather than plastic. Origin have installed a 12kW array of solar PV on the Roastery roof to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. In 2020 we replaced 4 of our fleet of 10 diesel vehicles with electric or hybrid versions, with the aim of replacing all diesel vehicles in the company by 2030. ”

Origin_Harbour Head

Overcoming the challenges of running a business in a sustainable way

Origin Coffee explained how they worked to navigate challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to overcome them.

“The global pandemic of COVID 19 hit the hospitality sector hard, and 2021 was dominated by uncertainty around rules and regulations for the hospitality industry. As a result, we had to adapt working practices, cut back opening hours and capacities across Origin’s coffee shops in London and Cornwall, in the UK.   

“In the same year, the G7 summit was hosted in St Ives, Cornwall, and Glasgow most recently hosted COP26. So alongside tackling the challenges of COVID 19, Origin has also worked to establish how the business can implement a roadmap towards 2030, with the aim of achieving Net Zero. 

“The pandemic and Brexit also resulted in huge delays and shortages, especially for packaging. Which has led us to research new and emerging options for packaging materials. 

“Climate Change is already being felt in many coffee growing regions globally, affecting crop yields in 2021, particularly. An example of this would be the Brazil leaf frost in July 2021 (which was the worst they had experienced in over 28 years). As the biggest coffee producing country globally, not having its usual coffee crop volume available to buy caused prices to sky-rocket – not only for available Brazilian coffee, but also other coffee producing countries who became much more in demand.

“The leaf frost not only wiped out their 2021 crop but will also affect the 2022 and 2023 crops, as the lasting damage to the trees continues. So, whilst we booked our coffee early for 2021, our prices have been impacted for 2022. 

“Our ongoing direct relationships with our coffee producing partners allows us to combat these challenges, and for us to ensure they are supported throughout this time, and in the future.”

Origin Coffee - Zsuzsa Zicho
Origin Coffee – Zsuzsa Zicho

Tell us more about your success at the Queens Awards for Enterprise, where Origin Coffee won in the Sustainable Development category.

“It was a huge honour for Origin to be awarded for industry-leading achievements in Sustainable Development. A truly prestigious distinction, celebrating the environmental and social ethos which sits at the heart of the business.

“It is with enormous pride that we have been recognised by Her Majesty the Queen for our commitment to sustainable development. 

“When we talk about sustainability at Origin Coffee, we talk about it in terms of each and every aspect of business operations – nothing escapes scrutiny. Asking how we can do things better, for people and the planet, is ingrained in our thinking and seeing the impact of our actions and inspiring other businesses to follow in our footsteps is a fantastic reward. It is a huge privilege to receive this award and is to the credit of the whole team.

“This is a journey of continuous improvements we have a number of initiatives in the pipeline to boost our efforts further.” – Tom Sobey, Owner and Founder, Origin

How important is marketing for sharing your key values and building brand loyalty?

Origin Coffee does a fantastic job of sharing its story and explaining to customers and hospitality businesses that there are incredible ethical suppliers available.

“Marketing your business is hugely important, as essentially, this is how you can communicate your brand story and educate your customers on the work you do, along with the products and services you have available.

“Through sharing Origin’s brand story, and mission in a clear and engaging way to our customers (both in person, and online), we can give them extra reassurance that when they order from our website, drink, eat or chat with us, they’re a part of a sustainable community, and are actively supporting this. 

“Our founder, Tom, has always had a very strong vision for the brand – we like to set ourselves apart from the rest of the speciality industry through our identity and the way we engage with our customers. For that reason, all of our marketing channels are a really valuable way we can represent the brand.”

Top tips for hospitality businesses looking to source coffee from sustainable and ethical suppliers

Origin Coffee shared their top tips for hospitality businesses to ask ethical suppliers, to ensure they meet their required standards.

“Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to interrogate a supplier on the transparency of how they trade. Looking at the supply chains they are a part of, and in turn, any initiatives they are a part of, and how your support can affect positive change throughout. 

“A good place to start looking is locally. Enabling businesses to meet with potential suppliers and minimise the environmental impact of products – for example, ‘low food miles’”

What’s next for Origin Coffee and how can our readers stay up to date?

Origin has lots of exciting plans to grow our community of Origin coffee drinkers across the UK and Europe. So, watch this space!

To stay up to date on what’s next for Origin, either follow us on Instagram @origincoffeeroasters or sign up to our newsletter at the footer of our website (and receive 10% off your first coffee order).