Purpose At Work: How Thrive Farmers’ Business Model Scales Profit and Impact

Brands that put purpose first simultaneously scale impact, consumer trust, and business growth. To build and maintain consumer trust, business leaders must act on purpose. In fact, a 2018 Edelman study found that 64 percent of consumers believe that “CEO’s should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it.” What’s more, another study found that nearly 90 percent of consumers say they would purchase a product if the company that made it advocates for a cause they believe in. Essentially, while corporate social responsibility used to be a nice thing to have, it is now a core business requirement for brands looking to carve out a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace.

A powerful example of a company leading with purpose is Thrive Farmers. The coffee and tea seller practices a unique revenue share model that supports farmers to prosper. Traditionally, coffee and tea farmers have a hard time predicting income and obtaining a living wage. That’s because commodity market fluctuations make it nearly impossible for farmers to predict annual revenue streams, which fluctuate with supply and demand. Thrive Farmers sees farmers as partners, paying them a percentage of the sale price. This revenue share model ensures coffee and tea farmers receive predictable income. In turn, they are able to invest more in their product, ultimately yielding higher quality coffee for consumers.

Thrive Farmers’ commitment to social responsibility and quality has lead the company to growing success. In addition to offering a subscription, the brand partners with numerous retail outlets including Chick-Fil-A. Its meaningful brand story and strategic partnerships have scaled revenue over 8,500 percent in its first 5 years of oppertation.

Thrive Farmers offers valuable lessons for purpose-driven businesses looking to lead with purpose:

Focus on the triple bottom line: To grow your impact and profitability, you must marry profit and purpose. By focusing on environmental, social and financial success you can weave purpose into business strategy. Thrive Farmers is especially focused on equitable supply chains, ensuring that the farmers that make their products have what they need to flourish. The socially conscious company also focuses on sustainability. While sustainability is a popular buzzword amongst coffee companies, farmers aren’t typically compensated enough to pay for additional sustainability measures, let alone producing their product. Thrive Farmers sees economic stability as the foundation to building sustainability. By giving farmers predictable and sufficient compensation, the farmers can better implement sustainability frameworks and practices. The company takes it a step further with the ThriveWorx Foundation. ThriveWorx actively helps empower coffee and tea farming communities to improve their lives and production. The lesson here is that you must look at sustainability, social impact and financial success as equally important foundational principles of your business. If one of them isn’t there, the structure of your business is weakened.

Produce quality products: While consumers want to support purposeful companies, they also seek quality products. If your product’s no good, you will struggle to gain consumer goodwill, advocacy, and meet financial benchmarks. Thrive Farmers does a great job combining quality with purpose. The reason Thrive Farmers is able to offer superb quality coffee and tea products is because of their equitable business structure. By leveraging business to build better livelihoods for farmers, the company receives higher quality products. That’s because the farmers have more resources to allocate to things like responsible pest control, water management, resiliency and alimentation. Ultimately, you must find a way to utilize your social impact to cultivate a higher quality product. This could mean investing more in corporate culture, sustainability, efficiency or supplier relationships. Whatever it is, remember that investing in quality and purpose today will yield greater success tomorrow.

Invite consumers and business partners to do good: Socially conscious consumers want to feel like they are making positive contributions with their purchases. People are increasingly aware of their purchasing power and feel good when they can use it to support a cause they care about. Similarly, retailers are looking to build a socially conscious reputation by selling purpose-driven products. Thrive Farmers effectively empowers consumers to participate in contributory consumption by explicitly promoting the fact that a percentage of the purchase price goes to the people who actually grew the food. In this way, customers feel like they have a relationship with the farming communities, rather than simply purchasing a cup of joe. It follows that retailers also benefit from selling Thrive Farmers’ products because consumers see them as a link between two things they love: delicious beverages and social empowerment. The takeaway here is that you must position your customers, retailers and suppliers as the heroes in your impact story. In other words, be the chief celebrant, not celebrity, of your community.

Tell impactful story: No matter how much amazing work you do, customers won’t know about it unless you share it with them. That’s why it is imperative to tell meaningful stories about your corporate culture and the communities you support. Thrive Farmers positions the farmers they work with as the face of their brand. By telling down-to-earth stories about how Thrive Farmers work with families to change their lives and their businesses, they show the human side of their brand. Human-to-human storytelling creates memorable experiences for consumers who are emotionally touched by the personal development of the communities behind the brand. What’s more, by telling true stories about your social good work, you can actively position your brand as authentic and trustworthy. Essentially, don’t be afraid to share the nitty gritty of your social impact work in your marketing initiatives. Consumers are attracted to human brands and want to see the process behind the impact.

Consumer trust can be cultivated with purposeful actions. To use your purpose to drive profits you must put your impact at the center of your company. This means making business decisions based on the triple bottom line, offering quality products, empowering consumers and retailers to do good and telling stories that matter.

CEO We First Inc, author NYT's bestseller We First, strategic corporate consultant and trainer, father, Australian, optimist.