The coffee industry always has good intentions. Whether it’s with coffee producers in mind, or providing baristas with the necessary tools to advance their careers, we are an industry built on the idea of elevating people and bringing them together. “Diversity” and “inclusion” are terms that are thrown around a lot in recent times, and of course, people only have the best intentions with respect to these ideas. We never intend for people to not feel included in our coffee competitions. We never intend for folks to feel left out when our marketing material only shows one kind of coffee professional. We never intend to hurt anybody in our pursuit for the perfect cup of coffee.
The thing about achieving diversity and true inclusivity is that intention means nothing. Getting caught up in intentions pulls time away from taking action. The coffee industry—in our individual communities and as a whole—must shift its focus from intention to action.
I often get questions asking, “But how? What do we need to do?” There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to achieving better diversity within the coffee industry, and it will look different for different people.
Start by looking within. Do you notice a pattern of who gets promoted within your company? What about those who get to participate in extracurricular coffee activities? Many tend to give priority to those who make the most noise, but you could be overlooking people who also deserve those opportunities.
Do your research. There are resources, like the deeply personal online library Coffee Equity Toolkit, that can help create a more inclusive industry. Look outside of the coffee industry too— how is the tech industry tackling diversity problems? What initiatives are they taking that can be applied to coffee? Since we are smaller as a whole, the potential to see change much sooner is higher.
Most of all, listen. Listen to the people who are often left behind and do what’s necessary to help bring them forward. The solutions aren’t always complicated. It is as simple as turning our intentions into being intentional. We have to be intentional about who we consider for promotion, who we choose to represent our companies, and the communities we give back to. The actions of the coffee industry have to be intentional about lifting up people in marginalized communities who historically have been barred from so many opportunities. “Diversity” and “inclusion” have to move away from being buzzwords and become woven into the fabric of our companies, and something we must all strive towards together to accomplish.