Integrating eco-friendly coffee packaging into sustainability reports

Jane Merchant
October 14, 2022
sustainability reports

Sustainability reports have long been associated with the world’s largest businesses.

The aim of these reports is to provide transparency on a company’s contribution to sustainable development. Additionally, sustainability reports are also viewed as a means of accountability for stakeholders.

Many small to medium-sized roasters may think reporting is only something they need to worry about when they scale up operations. While these roasters may not have legal, financial, or stakeholder reporting obligations, they can still benefit from generating a basic sustainability report.

Several factors may be integrated into sustainability reports, such as eco-friendly coffee packaging, greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, and water usage.

For those wondering what other efforts can be included in a sustainability report and how to communicate them, here is how you can proceed.

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sustainability reports

Why do sustainability reports matter?

A growing body of evidence indicates even small and medium businesses may benefit from generating sustainability reports.

A recent report titled “Small Business Big Impact SME Sustainability Reporting: From Vision To Action” attests to this.

Sustainability reports can help highlight operational areas that can be made more efficient or cost-effective, and alert business owners to potential issues before they occur.

Additionally, it can help engage the workforce and attract talented staff members while building goodwill, trust, and loyalty among customers.

For many roasters, this can help them show investors the roastery is well managed, which may help them secure capital to upscale their business.

That said, it can be challenging to decide what data to track or collect, or what information and efforts to disclose.

Currently, dozen of different sustainability reporting standards exist, including the Carbon Disclosure Project, the Global Reporting Initiative, and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. These reports differ in their scope and intended audience and often result in various ratings.

For roasters, much of the sustainability focus has traditionally fallen on coffee sourcing and an emphasis on transparency throughout the coffee supply chain.

This has been facilitated by a focus on direct trade practices and even coffee management software such as Cropster. To gather this kind of information, roasters can turn to their coffee buyers, exporters, or importers, or they can work directly alongside a producer.

As for what to include in the rest of the report, many use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a checklist. This tends to cover everything from climate change to waste and pollution.

sustainability reports

Learning from others in the coffee industry

To better understand what to include in a coffee roaster sustainability report, roasters can look at what others in the industry are doing.

For instance, McCabe’s Coffee Roasters are micro-roasters based in Wicklow, Ireland. As part of its sustainability efforts, the roastery documented it pays its producers a minimum of 20% more than the Fairtrade price.

This helps ensure the coffee is harvested in safe conditions by workers who are of legal age and for a fair wage.

A significant area of focus for McCabe’s is its packaging. The roastery claims to have spent years exploring different packaging options, including the use of compostable or reusable coffee bags.

The company found the only option that worked was to use plastic catering packaging. The roastery then collects used packaging from customers and sends it to TerraCycle UK so it can be converted into long-life plastic products such as park benches.

The reason McCabe’s does this is because plastic is not recycled in Ireland – it is usually sorted and exported to countries in Asia. As a result, many forms of packaging are incinerated in the country illegally or dumped abroad.

According to McCabe’s, this approach is “a sustainable alternative to the traditional linear model of create, consume and dispose: keeping plastic in use for as long as possible, recovering and recycling it to extract value and regenerate it into new products.”

An image of a barista and customer interacting in a coffee shop in an article on how to integrate eco-friendly coffee packaging into sustainability reports.

Integrating coffee packaging into sustainability reports

Roasters will be unable to document their sustainability efforts if they are unsure of where to begin. An effective place to start would be to use McCabe’s as an example.

Additionally, there are a few more factors roasters can consider, such as benchmarking their packaging.

Even roasters who have only ever offered single-use packaging will want to benchmark the cost, volume, and disposal of their current packaging before switching to more eco-friendly alternatives.

This information can be used to document a roaster’s current eco-footprint or carbon emissions. Roasters can use a number of free online tools to calculate their carbon footprint, such as CleanHub or Lumi.

Once a roaster has determined where they stand in regard to their sustainability efforts. They can decide how to move forward. Therefore, setting a goal is essential.

This may involve transferring all packaged products into more sustainable coffee packaging. Alternatively, it may include trailing one type of coffee to determine if it is a more cost-effective option for the business.

Last, roasters should always aim to be honest in their sustainability reports. As can be seen by McCabe’s report, even high-income and highly successful roasters can be constrained by limited infrastructure and government support. 

Making realistic changes that add value will have more impact than selecting an option that will make it difficult for the business to execute.

An image of a recyclable kraft paper coffee bag as sustainable coffee packaging in an article on how to integrate eco-friendly coffee packaging into sustainability reports.

For many roasters, creating that first sustainability report can be a momentous occasion – one that will involve their choice of coffee packaging.

By investing in fully sustainable coffee packaging, roasters can showcase their commitment to the environment, reduce their carbon footprint, and help future-proof the specialty coffee industry.

For roasters who are ready to revisit their approach to coffee packaging, MTPak Coffe can assist. More so, we are happy to provide our clients with all the information needed to generate an accurate sustainability report.

We offer roasters and coffee shops a line of  100% recyclable coffee packaging options. Choose from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste.

In addition, we give our clients complete control over the design process by allowing them to build their own coffee bags. Our design team is available to help you customise your coffee bags in order to convey your sustainability efforts to customers.

Plus, we use innovative digital printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time.

MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

For more information on custom-printed eco-friendly coffee packaging, contact our team.

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