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Glen Lyon’s vision is to put people and the environment before profit. Their speciality coffees are 100% traceable and ethically sourced. They build direct, long term relationships with producers and trading partners throughout the supply chain and pay the coffee farmers significantly above Fairtrade prices. Every year the team plants trees in the Highlands to offset their carbon footprint. They are committed to zero waste and making their impact on the planet a positive one.

Tell us about yourself and your business.

My name is Jamie Grant and I’m the owner and director of Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters. We are a small family run business based in Aberfeldy in Highland Perthshire. We are primarily coffee wholesalers to between 60 and 70 cafes across Scotland. We also have a very busy online shop and a walk-in cafe area and we employ 7 people in a remote rural area. So, we are quite an important business for the town.

So why is sustainability important to you and the business?

Environmental sustainability has always been a passion of mine. I worked as a journalist in South America and covered many environmental stories. Then I worked for the environment sector here in Scotland, for charities such as WWF Scotland and Scottish Wildlife Trust. So when I set the business up with my wife, Fiona, we wanted to have a really strong environmental focus.  And as we built a team around us, we encouraged them to be part of that project and part of that journey.

It has become a full team effort.

How have you addressed sustainability through your partnership with Trees for Life?

From the start, we were interested in trying to achieve carbon neutrality, particularly in the roastery. And 3 years ago we tackled this by starting a partnership with Trees for Life. Every autumn we take the team to plant trees to offset our carbon budget.

We do an audit to work out how much carbon we produce in the year, and then we plant the equivalent number of trees to sequester that amount of carbon in 30 and 40 years. Last year we planted 166 grey willow and to account for the carbon we produced here in the Roastery.

Tell us about your experience moving to electric powered deliveries?

In 2018 we invested in an electric car to reduce the amount of carbon we’re producing. Since then we’ve driven over 5,000 zero carbon miles for local deliveries here in Aberfeldy and the surrounding area, which we think has made a real impact to our overall carbon footprint.

Could you tell us a little bit about your efforts to reduce waste and use circular approaches in your business?

We have been committed to zero waste since 2011 and implemented a number of key measures in our environmental management towards this goal.

Some of the most important are within the Roastery, where we recycle as much as possible and we also upcycle as well.

We upcycle bags and dated coffee goes to homeless charities. Even the coffee chaffe is given to farmers as bedding for chickens.

Our packaging was originally a composite made from foil and paper and quite impossible to recycle or compost. So we pioneered fully compostable bags, and we now use one hundred percent compostable packaging, which we’re really, really proud of.

How easy or affordable have these steps been to implement into your business?

Some of the key changes and measures have involved capital cost up front, and they have been more costly in the short term. Like additional insulation on the external walls with solar panelling roofs and the investment in an electric car.

But in the long term and medium and long term, we see real cost savings. The electric car costs a fraction of petrol or diesel to run. There has been a 10 to 20 percent reduction in our electricity prices and our heating. We heat our Roastery 100 percent with wood and we have introduced new machinery an espresso machine and roasting machine, for a 30-40 percent saving in energy usage.

Medium to long term, we’re actually making cost savings.

Have there been any other benefits to your business?

It’s very hard to quantify what a difference taking such a strong environmental path has made to our business. In the last 12 months we have seen a fivefold increase in our online sales. Now, a lot of that is down to COVID, as people are staying home ordering coffee. But we also get constant positive feedback on our use of fully compostable packaging and our other environmental policies.

We’re convinced that this has been very beneficial and profitable for us in terms of reputation and sales.

Finally, what advice would you offer other small business, who are at the start of their climate change journey?

I’d really recommend other small business start looking seriously at their environmental management. At the end of this year there is the climate change summit in Glasgow, bringing more pressure now than ever for businesses to adapt to a low carbon economy. Consider writing an environmental business management plan. Make clear achievable steps year on year to improve waste management and carbon consumption.

The businesses that adapt sooner are going to fare better in the long run.

At Glen Lyon Coffee we see this as a win-win solution.

It’s made a huge difference to our reputation going forward, and it’s also completely in step with the battle to combat climate change.

Could you plant trees to offset your carbon emissions?

The Trees for Life mission is to rewild the Scottish Highlands by enabling the restoration of the globally unique Caledonian Forest which once covered much of Scotland. The involvement of small businesses and the people who run them is integral to its success.
Find out more here.

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