How one company used sustainability to grow its revenues by 250% in 3 years
Strategy, Sustainability & Communications: A Coffee Company’s Secret to Success
Every company needs a healthy dose of three staple ingredients: strategy, sustainability, and effective communications. These are often the most neglected topics in a boardroom, however when properly integrated, they can be the most transformative to an organization’s success and bottom line.
When I began working with Office Coffee Solutions, they already had some of the key ingredients – a track record of nearly 20 years of great service and some fantastic team members. That said, the market was becoming more competitive and the demands of the workplace kitchen environments were evolving. Trends were changing. We were not the biggest company in our industry, nor the loudest or most innovative. We had loyal customers, but our competitors were increasingly aggressive in their sales tactics, creating a more fragile business environment. We needed market differentiation, and we needed to be bold and agile about it. Where did we start? We used those three staple ingredients.
First, we created our strategy.
We held a company-wide meeting brainstorming our vision, mission, as well as our shared values. What did we stand for, what was our passion, and what was our purpose? Identifying these – as a full team – was key in launching us in the right direction and unifying the company. We evaluated our internal operations, supply chain, and partnerships. We asked ourselves what our biggest opportunities for improvement were. Our key findings were the need to focus on local procurement and partnerships, as well as mapping, streamlining and upgrading our internal procedures through better technology. We reviewed our growth plans, market placement, online media strategy, and identified what was trending locally, nationally, and worldwide. We mapped out our next few years of business, and worked to incorporate sustainability into everything we planned. We determined that using Social Responsibility as our guiding principle, as well as our lens for innovation, would be our primary strategy in moving our organization forward.
Second, we infused purpose and social responsibility into every aspect of our business.
It is one thing to create a strategy, a whole other thing to execute it. After internally establishing our purpose and mission, we began by going through a complete re-branding of our company, working to put in the programs and messaging that would redefine our group as bold leaders in sustainability, as well as displaying some of our quirky humour and forward-thinking offerings. We worked on our supply chain and created partnerships with local producers. We streamlined our internal procedures and implemented several new technologies and process improvements. We partnered with local companies that provided unique waste management solutions for our client base. Our social impact efforts included:
- Creation of a partnership with Bullfrog Power for both our facilities, as well as our fleet, becoming the first company in Canada to use their Green Fuel diversion program for 100% of our commercial vehicles. For this we were highlighted as one of the Top 75 Companies in Canada that supported renewable energies on the Green Index.
- Diverting 95% of our waste from landfill.
- Creating key partnerships that enabled us to become the first company in our industry to be operationally carbon neutral.
- Creating leading internal policies in diversity and inclusion, fair wages, paid volunteering & community involvement, environmental impact, and many more – efforts that would aid our team in “walking the walk”.
- Curating a more sustainable supply chain by purchasing from local purveyors and growing our responsible product offerings choices from 7% to over 40% or our catalogue.
- Building ethical waste management solutions for all systems types, for customers of all sizes and locations.
- All of this took time, persuasion, attention to detail, and a thorough re-tooling of many our company’s entrenched processes.
Third, we effectively communicated our new brand image and messaging.
In all our communications, from social media strategy to internal memos, billboards to marketing materials, we worked on bringing consistency to our brand and voice. We underwent a large website overhaul, ensuring key messaging was appropriately relayed with an authentic tone. Our new brand presence boosted our organic inbound business development by a whopping 55% – almost more than we could handle all at once (but don’t worry – we did!). Our online analytics, for both our B2B and B2C websites were vastly improved, and most importantly, conversion rates soared.
So, what does this all mean?
Besides the self-explanatory outcomes listed above that both improved our businesses brand image and actual impact upon the world, we were able to see immediate direct impact to our revenue streams. We successfully acquired many new major clients because our sustainable services and offerings simply outweighed those of our competitors. We became known as the “cool cats” of our field, and built up our street cred – employees began requesting their employers work with us because we actively worked with local brands and cared about our impact, which resonates in this day and age. We improved existing client retention and grew loyalty to our company. Bottom line? We were able to grow a 20-year old’s company’s revenues by 250% within 3 years.
The extra cherry on top? We raised awareness in both our industry and in what clients should expect from their coffee service provider. We set new standards for social responsibility and local procurement, of which we’ve now seen the ripple effects across our market.
Our journey reveals lessons for others intent on transforming their companies. Realizing success comes from holistic thinking. It is not enough to tinker only with sustainability improvements. As Al Etmanski, notable social entrepreneur, once said, we had to get our changes “into the water supply” of how we operated. That started from re-anchoring ourselves to our purpose, finding how we could use it as a competitive advantage, going into every facet of our company with a scalpel and injecting social & environmental improvements, and then being vocal and proud about it.
I am thankful to have been a contributor to the Office Coffee Solutions success story, and hopeful that others can learn from our tangible experiences and be inspired to transform their industries.
This success story was written by Jessica Pelchat.
Jessica Pelchat is a triple-bottom-line executive who believes that the future favours businesses that fully integrate sustainability into their DNA, through strategic and decisive action. As an intraprenuer at heart for the past ten years in senior leadership roles, she is driven by the transformation and growth of a purpose-driven business, always looking to incorporate a holistic approach of sustainability, strategy, and effective communications to execute tangible business growth.
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessicalpelchat/ ; Twitter: @Jessica_Pcat (https://twitter.com/Jessica_Pcat)
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