Transcend Coffee: Local Sustainability Challenges in a Global Industry
(7 pages of text)
In 2014, Transcend Coffee—an independent coffee shop and coffee bean roaster with several locations in Edmonton, Alberta—was selling premium coffee to a loyal base of customers. While it had taken several years to establish its presence in a marketplace that was filled with coffee retailers, Transcend Coffee's success was in part due to its direct trade supply chain strategy. By working closely with its coffee bean farmers, Transcend Coffee was able to assist in improving both the growing process of the beans and the quality of the coffee. When one of its farmers experienced a disastrous coffee bean season, the company was faced with several challenges that could have an impact on not just its profits but also the livelihood of its farmers. With demand for its coffee at an all-time high, Transcend Coffee had to consider how to mitigate a supply shortage without sacrificing quality. The founder was unsure if the current supply chain could guarantee a steady supply of high-quality coffee, or whether he could maintain transparency with consumers and suppliers if there was variability with the product. He had to quickly decide what to do about the poor harvest and his relationship with the supplier and also figure out how to meet customer demand.
This case is suitable for use in MBA and other graduate-level programs in courses on small business development, niche marketing, supply chain strategies such as fair trade and direct trade, and sustainability topics. The specific learning objectives of the case are to
- evaluate supply chain alternatives through a sustainability lens (including financial, social, and environmental implications);
- assess the fit between corporate strategy and a green certification program such as fair trade;
- apply patient capital values in support of a local business; and
- apply the relational and durational perspectives to explore how sustainability strategy relates to other stakeholders and intertemporal decision-making.
Canada, Small, 2014
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