written by NATIVA
illycaffè is the first Italian coffee company to obtain the B Corp certification granted to companies meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, demonstrating that it is possible to integrate sustainable and regenerative models into the coffee industry.
A model based on the concept of business as a force for good that regenerates society and the environment (criteria considered necessary for the survival of any company in the 21st century). That’s what B Corp offers: a concrete, strict and holistic measurement of the value created by companies and their commitment to continuous improvement.
On April 14th, illycaffè, a leading coffee producer and an iconic Italian heritage brand, became the 120th Italian B Corp. This is a significant achievement for a company present in 140 countries as well as in more than 100,000 bars, restaurants and hotels around the world.
Ethics and sustainability have been part of illycaffè’s DNA since its birth in 1933 by Francesco Illy, as demonstrated by his son Ernesto’s belief that: “The function of the industrial enterprise is fundamental and inalienable, but the economic perspective alone cannot suffice to legitimize its work, as it must be integrated with respect for man/humanity, the community and the environment”.
A fundamental conviction, which has been transformed by Andrea Illy and the Management that runs the company today into a path of sustainable innovation based on transparency and measurement.
With this in mind, in 2019 illycaffè adopted the legal status of a Benefit Corporation and officially became a “double purpose” company. This means that in addition to profit it pursues specific aims of common benefit, with the ambition to generate value for the community, the territory and all stakeholders in a responsible and sustainable manner. For illycaffè this translates into a focus on the responsibility of the entire value chain, the aspiration to happiness and quality of life of its stakeholders, circular economy and innovation in favour of the planet and the development of a sustainable agricultural model.
This choice allowed illycaffè to integrate its sustainability strategy into its Articles of Association, protecting its mission and operating model in the long term and enhancing what already characterizes its corporate identity: being a Stakeholder Company.
Another aspect that defines illycaffè’s business is the profound relationship of interdependence established with its raw material producers. Through a model of responsible management of the supply chain, illycaffè’s approach contributes to achieving a high level of sustainable product quality, an element that not only distinguishes the brand but also improves the company’s positive impact on the communities with which it interacts.
Thus illycaffè builds relationships with its suppliers in such a way that they are long-lasting and oriented towards mutual and continuous improvement: illycaffè regularly monitors, with field checks, the working conditions guaranteed by its producers; it also purchases raw materials at a higher price than the market price, in recognition of the quality of the product obtained and above all with the aim of supporting communities and encouraging their development and well-being. Moreover, the activation of knowledge-transfer programmes, through the activities of the University of Coffee and the constant visits to the plantations by illycaffè technicians and agronomists, leads to the improvement of the impacts and the growth of the supply chain.
In addition to the social aspects, attention to environmental impacts is also central. illycaffè monitors the level of sustainability of the coffee growing processes, ensuring correct use of water, respect for ecosystems and their biodiversity and correct waste disposal. The same approach is dedicated to the industrial processes, i.e. the coffee processing and roasting processes — all carried out in the Trieste plant — which are oriented towards the constant reduction of the impacts generated on the environment.
illycaffè therefore, thanks to its own commitment and a constant path of improvement, has redefined the standards of excellence in the world of coffee, in a market where companies not only want to be the best in the world, but are increasingly called upon to be the best FOR the world.
“We work every day to implement out principles and reconcile economics with ethics — said Massimiliano Pogliani, illycaffè CEO - “We launched the B Corp certification procedure to underline our commitment to keep generating a positive impact on society and on the planet, joining a network of companies which, like us, promote business models based on a strategy creating sustainable value in the long term.”
“This outstanding achievement by illycaffè — said Eric Ezechieli, co-founder of NATIVA, The Regenerative Innovation Company, and country partner for Italy of B Lab — shows that in the coffee sector too we can act regeneratively. Today all companies must necessarily evolve in this direction and we believe that illycaffè’s success will inspire many others, in Italy and globally, to accelerate along this path.”