Katrina Pantelli, Head of HR, IT and Office at Cafédirect has been with fairtrade hot drinks business since 2000. She’s seen the company and the market grow from small and niche into a mainstream brand and household name.
She reflects: “We’ve been on an amazing journey, but also very much up and down. It’s amazing to see how the fair trade coffee industry has changed, in particularly how the coffee culture in the UK and London has changed and how you see a real appetite for fair trade coffee in such a way that it has almost become mainstream.”
Another customer who has been with the bank for more than twenty years is Tony Mathews of Ty’r Eithin Farm Ltd, a biodynamic farmer from South West Wales. Ty’r Eithin Farm, now 80 acres started as a small family initiative striving to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem and a social enterprise connecting young people with the land.
“Twenty years ago we were milking cows because we saw that as a way of involving people and we always wanted to finance ourselves if possible,” tells Mathews.
“We had a small herd of about 10 cows. It was very rewarding, we had people from all over the world helping and all kinds of volunteers sharing our daily lives.
Another customer from the early hour is Garden Organic. “Back then we were much smaller. The charity was run by a husband and wife couple called Alan and Jackie Gear. Now, the charity has a 22 acre site with an office, a demonstration garden, a shop and a café. Very little of that, if anything would have existed 20 years ago,” explains Julie Court from Garden Organic.
Looking back on their twenty year long relationship with Triodos Bank, the feedback from some of our first customers is overwhelmingly heartfelt: “We’ve had some good times and bad times and I think Triodos Bank has been very good in supporting us through the bad times” says Julie.
Tony Mathews adds: “We feel that the bank understood our struggles and supported us through the rough patches, particularly when some marshy grass land came up for sale adjacent to our farm. At that point we were able to renew our mortgage to acquire the land and we are now specialists in growing very hardy cattle and the marsh land provides enough nutrition for our Welsh Black and Belted Galloway cows to thrive on.”
Not only have these companies grown and changed, the world around them had a major effect on their development. “You see that growing organic is now much more accepted and much more what people would like to see. We’re not so much having to convince people to grow organically but it’s more about showing them how to do it,” says Court.
The growing awareness of the public has been a key change for these companies. This begs the question if there’s a parallel between the development of fair trade, sustainable growing and ethical banking?
“With all the banking issues we’ve seen, ethical banking is now more relevant. In the coffee sector people expect their coffee to be fair trade and I think people are probably not quite so aware of ethical options available in banking. Certainly not as mainstream as in the coffee sector,” says Pantelli.
Looking ahead, twenty years from now…
With the ever changing dynamics in the market place, political landscape and society it’s hard to predict what the future may hold. But asking these organisations about their vision for the next twenty years, it’s clear that dreams and ambition remain.
“Triodos Bank has been brilliantly supportive. We hope the bank will remain our partner and continue to support our cash flow and the purchase of a new biomass boiler,” says Julie Court.
Looking ahead Pantelli’s ambitions for Cafédirect are as strong as when she joined the company. She hopes the company will continue to trade in an ethical way as a trailblazer in the sector like 20 years ago and truly connect back to customers.
Mathews comments: “I think as a society we need to get away from me, me, me, me and we need to start sharing more. And that’s the only way into a future we really want.”
words: faye holst
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