As the first coffee roaster to receive Fair Trade certification, and a worker-owned co-operative, Just Us! has proved that there is an alternative approach to earn profits while working towards a positive social and economic impact. Their innovative business model has netted them a dedicated customer base and has allowed them to become a Nova Scotia success story. Just Us!, a play on words for Justice, represents their drive and passion for the just and fair treatment of all people, showcased in their continuous work in reducing inequalities.
A majority of modern businesses, small and large, are hyper-focused on profits without paying much attention to other implications of their actions. While more and more restrictions and laws are encouraging businesses to act sustainably, a fundamental issue remains. Businesses that are not active players in tackling global issues will only do as much as required. Just Us! demonstrates how a responsible business should react to social and environmental issues.
As the first certified Fair Trade coffee roaster in Canada, and a member of the Small Producers Symbol, Just Us! has been a pioneer of social and environmental change since the business’s inception. In addition to having organic, Fair Trade coffee, Just Us! has helped a variety of communities and groups to improve overall well-being. Furthermore, Just Us! generously compensates its employees compared to other companies in the industry. Because of these factors, Just Us! manages to live up to their ideal of putting “People and the planet before profits’’ while still operating successfully.
The fundamental innovation of Just Us! is their business model, which has allowed them to act responsibly and sustainably while still turning a profit, despite generous wages. Due to these aspects, they function as an excellent role model to other small businesses, or start-ups. To share their methods more actively, Just Us! offers a partner program designed to assist small businesses who are trying to get their foot in the door. In doing this, Just Us! will continue to help foster new businesses in an innovative way while pointing them in the right direction.
The founder of Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op, Jeff Moore was introduced to freshly home-roasted coffee on a trip to Ethiopia several years before the days of Just Us!. The idea of high-quality, fairly traded coffee was generated while Jeff was attending a conference in Cuba. It was the time when Cuba had lost support from Eastern Europe and was looking to earn socio-economic stability using non-charity models.
It all began with the intention to “promote a system of trade that stands for fair prices and practices, equity and inclusion, environmental stewardship, democratic control, and the building of communities and individual capacity”. Today, Just Us! is known as Canada’s first Fair Trade coffee roaster. It can be seen that the business was not started with just the thought of selling coffee, rather they got into the business of change and chose coffee as the vehicle to do so. The goal was to promote an alternative to an exploitive global trade and work towards social and economic justice. The business is committed to organic agriculture which is considered crucial for the nourishment and health of all – people, wildlife, and earth.
As the World’s first company to join the Small Producers Partners (SPP) in 2011, the business is inspired by and partnered with the small farming co-ops from the global South. It is the only 100% small producer-owned fair trade network in the world.
The business, in itself, is a wholly Canadian-owned worker co-operative. Just Us! has no doubt proved the spirit and model of this alternative approach to business while attaining success and profit in Nova Scotia.
Just Us! walks a fine line between the business's internal success and external commitment. Due to how well they execute this balancing act, Just Us! is able to succeed as a business partially attributed to their involvement in the community. As an active player in local and global issues, Just Us! maintains a respectable reputation, allowing them to charge relatively high coffee prices without losing business. They have innovated within the competitive marketplace by designing an adaptive business plan pivoted around core values of equality and sustainability. This business model establishes Just Us! as a role model to other small businesses, encouraging responsible and sustainable action within the industry.
Being able to find a good cup of coffee is not a rare occurrence. Coffee can be purchased in local coffee shops, grocery stores, and restaurants. It is readily available and there are thousands of global brands to choose from. Just Us! realized the importance of developing a unique and flexible business plan to gain strategic advantages in this competitive marketplace. Through planning and the ability to execute changes as needed, the company has been able to adapt and recover from the downturns and challenges that have arisen in this market. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Just Us! flourished by maintaining its Fairtrade SPP status and as a result, the company was able to keep its personnel without layoffs and maintain its profit.
Just Us! attributes much of its success to its development of long-term business partners. They are very selective when choosing initiatives and brands to associate with. This company only connects with businesses with whom they have shared values. Through establishing these impactful relationships they align with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 partners with a purpose.
The business at Just Us! also prospers through the establishment of high-quality products that address social injustices around the world. By promoting awareness and change through the marketing of its products, the consumers can see the value and will pay a higher cost to support such worthy causes.
Just Us!, at its core, follows a democratic cooperative business structure that allows every member an equal say in the decision-making of the business. This is a founding principal at Just Us!, which encourages every employee at the co-op from baristas to business administrators, an opportunity to share their perspectives and their ideas to better the company’s business plan.
It is through differentiating practices like developing high-quality purposeful products, constantly adapting their business to meet market needs, establishing meaningful partnerships, and having diverse decision-making power that Just Us! is successful at being a positive influence in business. This is what the employees at the company refer to as “the Just Us! Way.”
When people hear about organic products they immediately think of how consuming them is much better for your body and health, but they often don’t realize how great it is for the environment and how it takes care of the earth. The lack of synthetic pesticides found in organic production allows an increase in biodiversity and helps to minimize the damage to the environment. Just Us! proudly has strictly organic production as they strongly believe in the importance of these matters, which clearly aligns with SDG 12, responsible consumption and production.
Through their innovation in their business model and focus on fair trade, Just Us! is really passionate about who they take up partnerships with. Choosing only to do special partnerships with those who align with their goals of helping our communities is just one way they benefit society. For instance, they get their labels from a local organization called Flower Cart, which deals with people with intellectual challenges, as they strongly believe in promoting meaningful work. They also have a special partnership with Birch Bark Coffee located in Ottawa, that deals with issues in indigenous communities such as drawing attention to the water problems on reserves. Just Us! has even been asked by VANSDA (Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association) and NWAC (Native Women’s Association Canada) to work with them and do coffees that highlight people of historic importance in the black community and draw attention to Mi'kmaq culture and values.
The best part is, it does not even stop there, Just Us! also does a coffee called ‘Breaking the Silence’ this product gives a voice to the boys and men who have been silenced since the civil war in Guatemala. They also have the recognition coffee where parts of their proceeds go towards raising awareness of the unpaid work of women.
As you can see through their innovation Just Us! does nothing short of helping causes that are important to them, align with their goals, and help local communities. Focusing on bringing awareness and working with these organizations clearly goes above and beyond the SDG goal of reducing inequalities. There is no doubt that Just Us! does everything in its power to benefit the environment and society.
The importance of corporate social and environmental responsibility is only becoming more and more apparent as time goes by. Just Us! is the perfect example of how a business can prosper in profits but do good for the communities and the environment simultaneously.
Vicki Matthews, Head of Sales
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Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, CA
Business Website: https://justuscoffee.com/
Year Founded: 1995
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op, is located in Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia, and is a Fair Trade coffee producer. Their company focuses on developing positive societal, and environmental impacts through their actions as a business and creating meaningful partnerships.