Five Senses becomes a carbon neutral business

Five Senses

Five Senses CEO Jason Gray on how the roaster is committed to impacting people and the environment positively through becoming a carbon neutral business.

Over the past 22 years, Five Senses has opened dialogues about specialty coffee and transparency and has made a positive impact on the livelihoods of producers it partners with.

But when it comes to environmental impact, company CEO Jason Gray says it’s only getting started.

“The company got serious about improving its sustainable arm about 2018. We pursued B Corp certification, which is pretty close to completion, and we partnered with Carbon Neutral Australia. It’s a Western Australian- based company, and their model is to start by measuring your emissions, then looking at reduction, and offsetting,” Jason says.

Five Senses measured its emissions from April 2017 to March 2018 and prepared its first emissions report. Its largest carbon emissions contributor was found to be freight, the shipping of beans in and out of the country from destinations such as Brazil and Papua New Guinea, as well as distributing coffee nationwide from its Perth roastery. While Five Senses will continue to monitor ways it can further reduce freight emissions, Jason says the great thing about B Corp certification is that it encourages businesses to do what they can but understands they can’t be perfect.

“My favourite example is a single-use surgical glove company that is B Corp certified. They have to throw their gloves away each time after surgery, but they can do other creative things to address their emissions,” Jason says. “There are certain things you can’t do, and that’s what offsets are for. We can’t reduce our emissions down to zero, but we can contribute to other companies that are carbon positive and be carbon neutral, which we’re really thrilled about and so are our staff.”

Power consumption was identified as Five Senses’ second highest carbon emitter. As such, it invested in a “fairly significant” solar outlay to its Rockingham roastery and changed the lights across all offices to be more energy efficient. It also got serious about recycling and had staff get involved in ways to reduce waste and emissions.

“We’ve got about 60 staff and they’re very committed to our mission of impacting people positively. Just about every staff member has gone through lean training to try to reduce wastage,” Jason says.

Five Senses has just completed its 2021-2022 emissions report. Over the past four years, Jason is proud to say that Five Senses has reduced its carbon emissions by 47 per cent, of which a significant portion is a result of its solar investment.

“We’re super happy with the 47 per cent reduction result,” he says.

“It’s only when you measure [your emissions] that you can make steps to improve. You need to detail how much rubbish you throw away, how big your bin capacities are, how much power you consume, electricity usage, even down to how many staff drive to work and their fuel consumption. It was an enormous amount of effort to measure, but once you do, you get inspired to reduce.”

Five Senses is also happy to announce that it has offset its 2021 carbon emissions and has bought carbon credits through Carbon Neutral Australia.

“To be carbon neutral means that our business operations – of what we can control; what we’re putting in the bin, how much electricity we use, etcetera – are not having any negative effect on the environment. We’re having a neutral effect, and who knows in the future, we might try to make that contribution positive,” Jason says.

One of the carbon offsets Five Senses has bought from Carbon Neutral Australia is a reforestation project called the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor. Located 400 kilometres north of Perth in Western Australia, it replants mixed native species that are endemic to the region, in land that was drastically cleared for farming throughout the 20th century. The project has planted more than 13,500 hectares and aims to reach 100,000 hectares.

“It’s really nice to do something fairly local. We can see it, we can travel there, and go check it out. It’s an awesome project – the largest biodiverse reforestation project in Australia. It has got this great benefit of actually pulling carbon out of the environment, not just trying to reduce it,” Jason says.

“The mission of our company is to impact people positively and we do that directly through all sorts of things like donations, looking after our staff, and being good purchasing partners, but there’s also an element of contributing indirectly to the community as a whole. We want to be part of a community that is healthy and good for people to live in.”

Another Carbon Neutral Australia project Five Senses has bought carbon offsets from, is the Chakala wind farm project in Nandurbar, Maharashtra State, in India.

This greenfield project generates power using renewable wind energy and sells the power generated to the state grid. It replaces the use of diesel generators by meeting the power demand during shortage periods. There is no consumption of any fossil fuel and hence no greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, a total 74,307 total carbon dioxide emissions are reduced each year on average.

“We buy some beans from India so it’s nice to have a little involvement with a country that we do buy from,” Jason says.

“Many coffee members who have travelled to origin have some world experience of just how privileged and lucky we are here in Australia, and how challenging some things in the world can be. I think the Australian specialty coffee industry is just one of those industries that is interested in doing good things, and we want to be part of that too – here and at origin.

“The more we do, the more inspired we are to do something, even if it’s a little challenging.”

Jason says there’s a strong aspiration for education within the coffee industry, perhaps more than other industries, and as such, will start to share its carbon neutrality message with customers.

“We’ve been on a journey. We’ve improved ourselves, and many of our customers are also trying to do the right thing. They’re concerned about wastage and energy consumption, so I think they would appreciate that Five Senses is also trying to do the right thing and be the best it can be,” he says.

“There are pretty discerning consumers in cafés who know a lot more about coffee in 2022 than what they did in 2007, myself included coming from a finance background. Customers are more inquisitive about direct trade and transparency, so we need to keep developing models that are fair and equitable, but it’s come a long way.”

Five Senses will continue its commitment to carbon neutrality and buying carbon offsets. It will also embrace new methods and processes that can further reduce its emissions and environmental impact for customers, such as improving its packaging materials, which it will roll out to market in 2023.

“We want to play our part, be a good corporate citizen and good people who inspire others to do more and do things better,” Jason says.

“The coffee industry is and always will be about people: the quality of coffee they consume and taste, only we’ll be delivering it with a carbon neural approach from now on, which is even better.”

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This article appears in the December 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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