Café businesses need to "get beyond Fairtrade" if they want to be truly ethical, according to Caffè Culture seminar speaker Paul Allen.
Allen, editor of the BBC’s Green website and author of Your Ethical Business, said companies must wake up to consumer demand for ethical products and practices. "Consumers expect businesses to offer them products that are environmentally and ethically sound," he said.
"For cafés, it’s almost time to get beyond Fairtrade," Allen added. "There are an awful lot of other things you can be doing." He pointed to trends towards organic, free-range, local sourcing, and sustainability as things that cafés could invest further in.
He also said businesses could influence their own suppliers to act in a more ethical way. "You can influence their behaviour, like at Innocent Drinks, where they said, ’Unless you change the way you work, we’re going to do business with these other guys’," he said.
There are three key elements to an ethical business - people, planet and profit or the "triple bottom line", Allen added. "Profit is key, because if you’re not profitable, no one will ever hear of you and what you’re trying to achieve."
Exhibitors of greener goods at the show said businesses of all sizes were showing more interest in their products.
Marcus Hill, managing director of London Bio Packaging, said: "Ultimately, it’s about consumer demand and managing your brand. If you’re not looking after the environment then your brand suffers. It’s not altruism that’s driving it."
Rachael Santell, marketing manager of Planglow, said independent cafés were particularly interested in biodegradable packaging "because they see it as something they can promote".
=== Ways to make a difference ===
* Businesses located in a deprived area can help empower local communities
* Make sure your business is accessible by public transport. Encourage cycling to work
* Focus on local, seasonal and organic food
* Support Fairtrade coffee
* Source your energy from providers which use clean energy or reinvest in renewable energy
* Invest in energy-saving gadgets
* Make food fresh to avoid packaging waste
* Use recycled paper and biodegradable packaging, wherever possible