Bryan Meehan, CEO, Blue Bottle Coffee

Why has sustainability been one of your key company values since you began?

Bryan Meehan: It's just been a natural thing for Blue Bottle since we started. We have three core values, and sustainability has always been one of them. Blue Bottle has been the first to do 100 percent compostable cups.

In the same way that we source incredible organic coffees from all over the world—we've always done organic milk with our coffee—we believe in delicious products and leaving the planet better off than when we started. So it's just part of what we do.

We all know how much waste coffee shops generate. What is your goal for your cafés?

Bryan Meehan: We're looking to reduce or eliminate plastics from our cafés, from 2021. We're looking to be able to measure, reduce, and offset carbon emissions. And ultimately, we're looking to eliminate all single-use packaging items in our cafés.

I think you will see a zero-waste café from Blue Bottle sometime in the next six months. It starts with one café. And I see a day where you will not be able to get a cup, a Blue Bottle, to go. You'll have to bring your own cup.

We have a vision of zero-waste cafés. But in addition to that, by 2021 it will be 100 percent plastic-free.

Why is this particularly relevant for the coffee business? What is the threat to the world's coffee supply?

Bryan Meehan: I think global warming is a threat not only to the world's coffee supply; it's a threat to everything on the planet. And I think the headlines are very clear that unless we all do something about it in the next five years, we have a serious problem, not just with coffee but with everything that we produce on this planet.

But specifically with coffee, the threat is that 50 percent of the production of coffee in the world is at threat by 2050.

What steps is your investment partner Nestlé taking toward more sustainability?

Bryan Meehan: Not only were we lucky enough to have Nestlé invest in Blue Bottle, we're fortunate enough to actually influence Nestlé when it comes to the environment, sustainability, and packaging.

Imagine a plastic that ends up in the ocean in Indonesia that biodegrades. Nestlé is working on that right now. Our investment partner Nestlé has committed to make 100 percent of its packaging—not just plastic bottles, but packaging—recyclable or reusable by 2025. I think that's a major move from them.

And that's something that I'm actually really happy to be working with Nestlé on, because we are definitely making a difference with them and they are definitely making a difference in what they're doing.

Is sustainability also good marketing? Do consumers care about this?

Bryan Meehan: I don't think sustainability is good marketing, because I think it's got to come from the heart. You can't be a CMO or a CEO of a company and wake up in the morning and say, 'We've got to be seen to be doing something about plastics.' It's got to be part of your values. Everyone in your organization's got to believe in it.

If it doesn't come from the heart, you're not really making a difference. I see a lot of people tweeting, Instagramming about plastics. I think sometimes they're doing it for vanity. I think we've got to do it to save the planet, and that means not just doing it on a post; it's actually doing it in reality.

Don't use the plastic water bottle. Reduce your impact on the environment. Do small things, do big things—make it part of your company culture. Make it part of your heart. Don't make it a marketing objective.

How do consumers respond to it?

Bryan Meehan: I think consumers are learning about this. We're spreading the word about our responsibility, all of us, as businesses and consumers. And so it's education, education, education. It starts at schools but also it's important as businesses to make sure that we are making responsible decisions.

What is compostable in your cafés? Is everything compostable?

Bryan Meehan: All of our cups, our lids, our straws, our napkins are 100 percent compostable.

Fifty percent of the land that's used for coffee production will no longer be viable in 2050 with global warming. It's kind of scary. So if you're not interested in the environment but you are interested in coffee, do your thing to stop global warming.

What is the impact on your customers?

Bryan Meehan: Anytime we mention the environment on our social media, it's one of the biggest responses we get from our customers, so we know global warming is really important to the Blue Bottle customer.

We're doing this because we believe in it. But we also know that our customers care very deeply about this issue, too.

What is the future of packaging in general?

Bryan Meehan: I think this is a really exciting time to invest in packaging, because we're always going to have packaging in the world. Packaging is going to change dramatically. You're going to be able to unwrap a product. If it ends up in the ocean, it's going to dissolve.

I think technology is going to dramatically change the face of packaging. What we know as packaging is going to change 100 percent from where it is today, in the same way that the automotive industry is changing now with the use of electric vehicles.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Bryan Meehan: Before sustainability became a fashion word, it's always been very much at the heart of Blue Bottle Coffee, from our founder James Freeman, through my background, through everyone that works at Blue Bottle Coffee. We've always looked at the supplier first—where our product comes from.

We source the most beautiful coffees from the world. Most of them are organic. Sustainability is core in everything we do, from our packaging to our product, through our milk, through our food, through everything we do at Blue Bottle Coffee. It's not something we started a year ago. We've been doing this since we were founded 16 years ago.