When we discuss sustainability, we tend to focus on nature and the environment. While those are clearly vital to sustained life and health, companies must concentrate on holistic sustainability, which I consider a balance between nature, communities and commerce.
This viewpoint has driven the growth of my company, Mayorga Coffee, from a "mom and pop" to a nationally distributed brand known for high quality, fair pricing and progressive practices.
Being a socially and environmentally responsible company does not have to be achieved at the expense of profit or competitiveness. In our case, a dedication to holistic sustainability has proved a competitive advantage.
(Read more: Does Earth Day Matter?)
I was born in Guatemala and spent most of my childhood in Nicaragua, then Costa Rica and Peru. While living in those countries I developed a deep respect for the people and communities who made a living from their land. I saw sugar, coffee and vegetable farmers lovingly cultivate their crops to sell at the local market.
At the market, potential customers carefully inspected every piece of produce to ensure freshness and quality before taking it home to feed to their loved ones. They haggled on price, making their needs clear to one another before reaching an agreement.
The entire process was dependent on a network of variables, including consistent rainfall, proper sunlight, healthy soil, economic viability, consumer expectations and market demand. When those elements aligned, the process provided farmers appropriate income and consumers with desirable quality and freshness at a fair price. When the process could be replicated, it became sustainable.
I started Mayorga Coffee when I was 21, in an effort to contribute to the countries that helped form me and to create a long-term market opportunity for coffee farmers. I realized that in accomplish that, I would have to offer the best quality at fair prices. The best way to do that was to learn the entire process and to promote natural growing practices that maximized quality while protecting the environment.
I spent time in Central America to learn the craft of small-batch roasting so that I could essentially act as a sales agent for coffee farmers and a buyer's agent for consumers. With this approach I could protect the interests of everyone in the supply chain, replicating the farmers' market model that I appreciated as a child.