Skylark Coffee is a social enterprise that produces high-quality coffee while helping to address environmental damage and exploitation in the coffee industry. The company is based in Brighton, UK, and sources its coffee from specialty coffee businesses and individuals. It pays top specialty prices for the coffee and donates an additional £1 per kilo to conservation and empowerment efforts at home and in coffee-producing communities. The company's profits are given to four charities that address key local problems, including environmental conservation, sustainable coffee farming, unemployment, and women's empowerment.
The coffee company is working to challenge the power dynamics in the coffee value chain and to create a fairer and more just system. The company's Ben Szobody and Micah Sherer have experience in opening successful coffee businesses, managing teams, researching power dynamics, and competing as elite baristas. Skylark Coffee is part of the charity umbrella of One Church Brighton, which works with marginalised people across Sussex.
The Szobody and Sherer are committed to reimagining every stage of the coffee supply chain to be more just and interdependent. They have received support from artists, including Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane, who painted the birds and wrote the poetry that appears on Skylark's bags and website. Ultimately, Skylark Coffee aims to combine top-tier coffee with a fully transparent non-profit model to create a better and more sustainable coffee industry.
Their 12-page "2022 Transparency and Sustainability Report" is Skylark's second annual report, explaining the operational side of the business and measures to transform a global industry. Szobody and Sherer have a combined experience of 30 years - experience they have used to inform seven goals for Skylark.
Even as roasters themselves, Skylark admit that this processing part of the supply chain retains the most profit. Middlemen importers and logisticians deliver a vital service and are fairly but not overly rewarded. As for the different types or roasters, the report highlights.
Specialty roasters often behave less ethically towards farmers than commercial roasters… this is nuanced and varies wildly... What really upsets coffee producers we know is NOT the middle man — instead, it’s the roasters who buy their crops for £6 per kilo and then set a retail price at £32 while making ethical claims to justify that margin.
Other stats punctuate the report including #6 of Skylark's goals, to grow to a scale that allows purchases of a shipping container from each country (17 tonnes of coffee). Of the £250,000 of revenue in its first two years of operating, Skylark has spent £100,000 on coffee purchases (an average of £9.03/kg). £11,000 has been donated to external charities, with £8,000 going to Pro Baristas who helps train baristas out of One Church in Brighton. Full Profit & Loss is tabled too.
Keep an eye on other documentation from Skylark via their blog at skylark.coffee