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Sustainability, Ethics and Business

Sustainability, Ethics and Business

As environmental concerns intensify and consumers demand ethical ways of doing business, we expect to see some more legal regulation. An example is the Modern Slavery regime which we have discussed in our earlier blog.

One of the biggest changes in Victorian Environmental Law is the overhaul of the Environment Protection Laws. The Victorian Government undertook a public inquiry into the Environmental Protection Authority’s legislation and it revealed that the community and businesses wanted a ‘world-class regulator’ that prevents harm to environmental and public health.  When the new Act commences on 1 July 2020, it will give the EPA enhanced powers and tools to prevent harm to the environment and human health well as the ability to use stronger sanctions and penalties that hold environmental offenders to account.

A ban on single-use plastic ban starts in Victoria on 1 November 2019. This ban’s aim is to reduce the impact of plastic on the environment by promoting the shift from single-use plastics bags to durable, reusable bags. The ban will apply to all businesses that sell goods. Not only will light-weight plastic bags be banned but also single-use bags made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic. This initiative follows in the footsteps of most States and Territories in Australia.

South Australia has taken these measures one step further, expressing its intention to ban certain single-use plastics products such as plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers. Other States and Territories may follow suit.

But it’s not just about legal regulation. Consumers demand to know that the businesses they work with are operating in an ethical and sustainable way. We sat down with our client, Fiona Dickson, a Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility Consultant, to discuss the work she does with her business clients.

 

What do you do for your clients?

We play a central role in helping our clients to achieve the Three Pillars of environmental, social and economic sustainability. We help them improve their environmental performance. We find ways to lower their carbon footprint, develop environmentally-friendly products and comply with industry standards and the law.

We take a close look at their operations to see where they can improve and develop sustainable business solutions by designing programs and introducing processes. When a business uses a lot of resources it is crucial that they create opportunities to optimise natural resources and make their supply chains more efficient.

Our clients are interested in the Three Pillars for a few reasons. Their customers are demanding it. There is increasing risk associated with legal compliance and in many cases, it produces economic benefits through reduced costs and increased profit. When a business delivers on a consumer-driven demand for sustainability if fosters consumer loyalty.

 

We understand that you have many clients in the coffee industry. What are the particular challenges that these businesses face?

We are aware of climate change and the detrimental impacts it has on the coffee industry from drought, flooding and rising temperatures. In recent years, rising temperatures have caused coffee growers to move their crops higher in the mountains in areas near the equator that are above 1500 metres above sea level. This leads to further geographical isolation which increases the costs of travel and to obtain supplies and resources. The higher altitude also influences the quality of the coffee produced.

Many coffee-producing countries suffer from extreme poverty and lack effective social infrastructure which makes farmers, producers and their families vulnerable. Child labour is a real issue in some areas. It is important that farmers are paid fair prices since unstable coffee prices have a direct impact on access to education, housing, food, healthcare and other basic necessities.

In the Australian context, this area has been transformed by the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth). The purpose is to end modern slavery in the supply chain of Australian businesses and to establish transparency.

So, more than ever, the coffee industry must consider the circumstances of the workers producing their beans.

 

What about sustainability at a café level?

Cafes tend to be conscious about the waste produced and are open to sustainable practices.  Disposing of waste is expensive and food waste hits the bottom line. So, as well as ethical considerations, there is a direct financial link to sustainable practices.

One recent innovation adopted by some cafes is The Juggler technology. With this technology, milk comes to cafes in large bladders of 10 or 20 litres, instead of 2L containers. So there is less plastic and it dispenses the exact amount of milk which eliminates wastage.

Takeaway coffee cups are not recyclable due to an inner lining made of polyethylene which makes the cup waterproof. This lining is difficult to separate which means takeaway cups end up in landfills. There are now some options around this where such as Detpak Recycle Me, a closed loop initiative where cups are picked up and turned into paper. This initiative has been endorsed by Planet Ark.

Many customers have been bringing their own Keep-Cups to their favourite cafes for years. An evolution of that is the ‘swap and go’ model where you simply give your barista your dirty cup and take a clean one.

At Bayston Group we recently invested in the HuskeeCup pictured above. They are manufactured out of coffee husk, an organic waste material that’s produced at the milling stage of coffee production. HuskeeCups can be used as keep cups but are stylish enough to serve coffees to clients at our boardroom table. Why not make a time to come in and have a chat with us about your business, we will serve you a coffee in the HuskeeCup and help you get on top of your legal risk issues.