KALVE Coffee co-founder Gatis Zēmanis shares the story of KALVE's path to achieving the sustainability gold standard in the B Corp community, future plans, and how B Corp has transformed the company.
Becoming a certified B Corp company is not an easy journey, often taking several years, but KALVE Coffee is pleased to announce that it has officially joined the responsible business community, becoming the first company in Latvia to earn a prestigious sustainability certificate B Corp.
From its inception, KALVE Coffee has been consciously working on creating values, including openness, honesty, quality, courage, and sustainability, which align naturally with B Corp standards. However, KALVE Coffee co-founder and leader Gatis Zēmanis' personal determination and ambition from the very beginning of the company pushed them towards modern and responsible entrepreneurship. "Many people told me that it's impossible to build a successful business with strong sustainability processes, but that fueled my determination to prove that it can be done," says Gatis.
But what is B Corp?
Transparency in business is like baring it all and walking the streets - it requires courage!
B Lab, a nonprofit organization, certifies Benefit Corporations or better known as B Corp. This certification is unique in that it looks at companies holistically, encompassing social and environmental aspects.
Companies that pass rigorous assessment criteria are considered leaders in inclusive, fair, and responsible business within the global B Corp movement. B Corp sets gold standards that KALVE Coffee has been following since its inception, never deviating from its core values.
"The introduction of the B Corp certification was never the end goal. When we founded KALVE Coffee, we didn't aim to establish sustainability standards; we simply wanted to consciously create a business with a positive impact in all directions - environment, employees, suppliers, customers, and owners," explains Zēmanis.
The journey to obtaining the B Corp certification was by no means easy; it took two years of meticulous documentation to prove that KALVE Coffee is genuinely a sustainable and responsible company.
"Getting the B Corp certification was an expensive process, but not in monetary terms. We worked tirelessly for a year on documentation - providing evidence of our responsibility, communicating with suppliers, and seeking new ones that align with our values. Of course, during this time, we could have focused on sales, found cheaper products, and sold them at a higher price without thinking about sustainability. However, we chose a different path that will be best for the business and the world in the long term," explains Zēmanis.
During the process of obtaining the B Corp certification, KALVE changed some of its coffee bean suppliers, but from the very beginning, KALVE has adhered to fair trade principles. KALVE has never purchased coffee beans on the stock market or coffee beans of unknown origin. Even when purchasing coffee machines for use in KALVE cafes, they sought eco-friendly machines that consume less energy.
KALVE's Path to B Corp
Transparency in business is like baring it all and walking the streets - it requires courage!
To become a certified B Corp company, each company must demonstrate a very high social and B Impact Assessment score of at least 80 points. The average score for companies that fill out the B Corp application is 50.9 points. KALVE Coffee achieved a score of 91.8 points.
The B Impact Assessment is divided into five main categories: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. In the community category, KALVE scored 28.6 points. This category evaluates the company's engagement and impact on the communities in which it operates. It includes diversity, equity, inclusion, economic impact, civic engagement, charitable giving, and supply chain management.
"I believe the primary focus should be on environmental and social responsibility. The more educated and compassionate society is, the faster carbon emissions will decrease, and not only that - preserving biodiversity is also crucial. KALVE looks at this aspect through its coffee suppliers, such as our trusted partner 'Sancoffee,' who supplies green coffee beans to KALVE. They go above and beyond the industry average, thinking not only about profit but also about social, environmental, and other responsibilities," says Zēmanis.
In the environmental category, KALVE Coffee scored 21.5 points. This category assesses the company's overall environmental management practices and its impact on air, climate, water, land, and biodiversity. It includes the direct impact of the company's operations and, if necessary, its supply chain and distribution channels. This section also recognizes companies with environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and those selling products or services with a positive environmental impact.
In the workers category, KALVE Coffee scored 29.5 points. In this category, the company's employees evaluate its contributions to their financial security, health and safety, well-being, career development, engagement, and satisfaction.
In the governance category, KALVE Coffee scored 8.5 points. Governance assesses the company's overall mission, engagement in social and environmental impact, ethics, and transparency.
In the customers category, KALVE Coffee scored 3.4 points. Customers evaluate the company's management of its relationship with them, product and service quality, ethical marketing, data privacy and security, and feedback channels.
"I like the B Corp movement because it fosters competition among companies, not just to see who has the most money in the bank, but who has built a business that benefits the entire world," says Gatis.
While it is undoubtedly gratifying to be internationally recognized, the journey is not over. Every three years, B Corp-certified companies must go through a recertification process. An unwritten rule between companies and organizations is that they strive to outdo their own scores and aim for higher standards.
"Business is a competition not only with competitors but also with oneself. The B Corp point system creates a sense of excitement - of course, we want to score higher next time. We look at our closest competitors, see how many points they have, and our goal is to surpass them. It's a healthy thrill that drives us forward," explains Gatis.
He also emphasizes that it will be a significant challenge to surpass themselves and others because KALVE is a rapidly growing company, and the criteria for obtaining the B Corp certification will change next year. Gatis also does not foresee any particular difficulties in the recertification process: "B Corp values run through the company's DNA; it's our work culture from day one."
Although KALVE is the first Latvian company to obtain the B Corp certification, Gatis highlights that there are other companies in Latvia with philosophies based on sustainable and responsible business thinking.
Looking to the future: The path to the stock exchange.
One of KALVE's core values is accessibility, which includes product, financial, and environmental accessibility. KALVE aims to expand these important pillars by going public and create opportunities for everyone to buy parts in the stock exchange. "In this way, we want to become even more accessible and give everyone the opportunity to participate in KALVE's decision-making and attract additional resources for development," explains Gatis.
"We don't want to be the third wheel; we want to be the first and perhaps even the locomotive at the helm. We want to be thought leaders," says Gatis, emphasizing that in today's dynamic world, companies must be able to adapt with their decisions and actions.
Gatis encourages other entrepreneurs to look towards responsible and sustainable business thinking, emphasizing that it is pleasant to work according to such an honest and transparent methodology: "Of course, there is a lot of work to be done to obtain the B Corp certification, but I believe that those who complete this work sooner will reap significant benefits in the near future. It's clear that what's happening in the European Parliament - tax policies, by 2026, companies will be required to provide environmental impact reports, and so on - is likely to affect tax policies. Therefore, the sooner companies get this sorted out, the easier and better it will be in the future."
As for the most pressing issues facing KALVE Coffee currently, Gatis sees environmental and social aspects as two key priorities. "These are the two main considerations to keep in mind when making any decision," says Gatis.
Gatis sees fair pay for work, as well as working conditions and social guarantees, as the main social issues in Latvia. However, he emphasizes that work relationships should be mutually pleasant and beneficial. The responsibility also lies with the employees to justify this fair payment for their work; it is a partnership between the employee and the employer.
Stay tuned for more stories about how the KALVE team includes responsibility in their lives!
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