Sustainable practices should – and must – be a core value of brands in the beverage sector at a time in which consumers are increasingly demanding about the production and origin of products, according to local experts and industry professionals.
“Today sustainability initiatives are ‘table stakes’ for every brand and consumers with their purchase decisions clearly demonstrate the importance they attribute to it,” says Mufaddal Jafferjee director of Jafferjee Brothers.
Among one of the best known examples internationally is Coca Cola, whose continental divisions are working to deliver a new sustainability plan for Western Europe. The plan – which has a target date of 2025 – includes targets such as cutting carbon emissions by half and only using recyclable and reusable packaging by 2025.
Additionally, Coca Cola says that half of all sales will come from the low or no-calorie drinks, which the company will facilitate by reducing the amount of sugar in its soft drinks by 10% between 2015 and 2020. So far, the plan has been welcomed by campaigners concerned about increased marine pollution around the globe.
Sustainability at the core of a family brand
“Sustainability has always been a core constituent of our brands Jaf Tea and Te Reval. As a family business, ethical considerations are an integral part of our decision making process,” Jaffeerjee notes. “We only offer single origin teas under our brands. We highlight not only the origin but even the region where our teas are grown in our packaging and website.”
Jafferjee believes that this gives their customers the opportunity to experience the unique flavours and tastes that each origin and region offers.
“By highlighting origin and region we give due recognition to the farmers, tea makers and small communities who produce these premium tea. We believe this visibility allows the customer, through their purchase, to reward for these efforts,” he adds.
Jafferjee’s Ceylon teas are packed in Sri Lanka, where they are grown, to retain freshness and provide greater employment opportunities to local communities.
This is, in the company’s opinion, the most sustainable approach to ensuring the Ceylon tea industry continues to thrive in the face of the increased commoditisation of tea.
Jafferjee also adds that the Ceylon teas used in our brands Jaf Tea and Te Reval are certified by the Rainforest Alliance, an international NGO which works to help preserve biodiversity and help sustain sustainable livelihoods around the world by changing business and land-use practices, as well as potentially damaging consumer behaviours.
“We support RA’s efforts to protect and preserve the incredible biodiversity and ecology in our tea growing regions,” he says.
Coffee companies lead the way
Among the most active companies when it comes to recycling locally is coffee company Nespresso, which recently celebrated the four-year anniversary of its recycling programme in the UAE. As part of the programme – which is done in coordination with a local partner, Bee’ah – the company collects and recycles coffee capsules.
Additionally, Nespresso is also currently exploring collaboration with organic farms to supply natural compost to aid food production in the country.
With coffee consumption at an all-time high in the region, Nespresso is calling on local consumers to contribute to the cause by recycling their used capsules.
“At Nespresso we are committed to doing business responsibly, and this value is what drove us to launch our recycling program four years ago. Nowadays 10-12% of sold capsules are actually recycled by our Club Members but through sustained efforts we are confident we can grow that number,” said Manuel Sancho, business development manager for the Middle East & Africa at Nespresso.
While Sancho said that recycling rates are still “falling short” of expectations, it is nevertheless “encouraging to see more and more of our consumers coming forward to be part of this cause to help protect the environment.”
“On our part, we are ramping up our communication and activities with renewed focus to spread the word far and wide. The greater the awareness, the more we can do for the environment and our local communities,” he added.
Another company, the ever-popular Costa Coffee, has done their part by introducing reusable cups, and providing incentives for consumers to use them as much as possible.
“As a global business, we wholeheartedly support any initiative that champions sustainable practices,” said Shemaine Jones, head of marketing at Costa Coffee UAE. “We have our own range of reusable cups, which is available at all Costa outlets across the UAE, and we offer a free cup of coffee to customers for each reusable cup purchased.”
“At Costa, we have a number of policies in place, including our coffee beans which are sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms,” Jones added.
Award-winning designer Dr Leyla Acaroglu – who in 2016 was named a ‘champion of the earth, science and innovation by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) noted that “sustainability has now become a buzzword in the hospitality industry.”
“But it is a future,” she adds optimistically.
At the heart of this sustainable future, Acaroglu notes, is a growing awareness among the average consumer of the problems currently faced by the environment today, as well as the environmental and social impact of products and services, which in many cases is extremely high.
“We’re specifically seeing a very big movement with regards the disposable products. People are feeling more and more guilt about participating in things like the ocean waste movement,” she says. “So it’s more important that service providers give their consumer environmentally-friendly options in their day-to-day interactions with their brands.”