Illycaffè has become the first Italian coffee company to obtain the B Corp certification, awarded to companies that meet the highest standards for social and environmental performance, transparency, and responsibility. B-Corp certified companies operate to optimise their positive impact on employees, their communities, and the environment.
While many corporations are making it a priority to be a positive force in the world, B Corps are leaders in translating this concept into practice, based on their adherence to strict overall measurement protocols for the value they create and their commitment to continuous improvement.
The Italian roaster says ethics and sustainability are part of its DNA: since its founding in 1933, illycaffè has set itself the goal of improving people’s quality of life. In 2019, illy strengthened its commitment to operating as a stakeholder company when it adopted Benefit Company status. In doing so, illycaffè reaffirmed its choice to seek continued growth by operating in a sustainable way for the communities with which it interacts, formally integrating this commitment within company bylaws.
Sustainability has always been an operating principle at illycaffè. It is applied to the company’s entire supply chain, which is built on a system of direct relations with suppliers on the basis of four pillars: selecting and working directly with the best Arabica growers; transferring knowledge and expertise to the growers, training them at illycaffè’s University of Coffee (UdC); and through direct, hands-on work in coffee fields with specialised agronomists to achieve sustained, high-quality production while also respecting the environment.
Illycaffè combines these actions with rewarding growers for the quality they achieve by paying premium prices, higher than the market average, while fostering continuous improvement to create sustainable coffee and a community of growers: a community in every sense, capable of meeting not only in-person but virtually thanks to the platform created by illy known as Circolo illy. These, and numerous other initiatives, contributed to illy’s B Corp certification.
“We work every day to implement our principles and reconcile economics with ethics,” says 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 like-minded companies that promote business models based on a strategy to create sustainable value in the long term.”
Illy achieved its B Corp certification with the support of Nativa – Regenerative Innovation Company, which supports businesses in their evolution toward a regenerative and sustainable economic paradigm.
With its new status, illy confirms its commitment to reaching its established targets for sustainability to create a durable and shared value. Overall, this is a noteworthy achievement for the company, considering that to date, only 3 per cent of the 100,000 companies that have applied for B Corp certification have met the excellence criteria established by B Lab, the international certifying entity for B Corp status.
“This outstanding achievement by illycaffè shows that in the coffee sector too we can act generatively,” says Eric Ezechieli, Co-founder of Nativa, Regenerative Innovation Company, and country partner for Italy of B Lab. “Today all companies must necessarily evolve in this direction, and we believe that illy’s success will inspire many others, in Italy and globally, to accelerate along this path.”