Davao social entrep bags peace award

Photo from Joji Pantoja

WINNING the Oslo Business for Peace Awards is a huge help in strengthening their advocacy of economic growth for everyone included in the value chain, said Coffee for Peace Inc. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Joji Pantoja.

According to her, since the establishment of their social enterprise Coffee for Peace in 2008, profit was never the driving force for the business. Even then, they had been advocating for fair trade, care for the environment, and promoting the culture of peace.

Coffee for Peace has been working with coffee farmers and Indigenous Peoples in different areas in Davao Region and even neighboring areas. In the past, they had provided training for farmers while cultivating peace in the community.

Despite this, the Oslo Business for Peace Awards came as a surprise for Pantoja.

"I knew at that time that profit alone should not be the basis for the success of a company. I believe that it should be measured in all aspects: your supplier partner (farmer) should be growing, your employees should be happy working for you, your distributor should be happy promoting your product, and the consumers are happy because your product tastes good and they are able to help the farmers indirectly. This is the reason why we have the tag line: 'it's not just another coffee, it's JUST coffee!'," shared Pantoja in an online interview with SunStar Davao.

Starting out, impact measurement wasn't a thing then. Business Call to Action (BCtA), one of the organizations that does impact measurement, called her one day and told her they will be nominating her for the Oslo Business for Peace Awards.

"An international and highest recognition in Oslo as Nobel Business for Peace Award sets a precedent to other social enterprises and other businesses, to be 'mindful'. Everything is all related and inter-connected, and each country prosper or suffer, depending on the economic, political and environmental policies of the country," she said.

In the past, they had also been introduced to another impact measuring organization IIX-Shujog Foundation which led them to being nominated and awarded the 2015 N-Peace Impact Award by UNDP in the United States.

Like any other businesses in the city, Coffee for Peace was and is continuously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Pantoja said they needed to close down the coffee shop temporarily during the lockdown. They also sized down and worked in arranged alternate schedules to help lower the cost. They have also applied for assistance programs of the Department of Trade and Industry Davao Region for small businesses. At the same time, impact investors also assisted them through financial grants good for the duration of the lockdown.

"One positive thing that helped us during the lockdown was to sit-down and re-strategize. Analyze what can make income for us and focus our energy to that. We launched two new products to match the needs of our coffee drinking consumers who are missing their fresh roasted coffee. We have started applying for our own FDA certifications, from our community partners in the farm to our roasting place. We sought help from other NGOs to help us in bringing our operation to be eCommerce ready. Farmers and Fisherfolks need help to move their products, so that they can live decently and continue sending their children to school, or at least modular school," Pantoja said when asked of their strategies in coping up with the effects of pandemic.

Alongside Pantoja, other winners for the award are Marc Benioff, co-founder and CEO of Salesforce, and James Mwangi, managing director and CEO of Equity Group Holdings. The awarding ceremony will coincide with the Business for Peace Summit in May 2021.

"The Oslo Business for Peace Award is given annually to business leaders, as individuals, for their outstanding business worthy accomplishments; leaders who apply their business energy ethically and responsibly, creating stronger economic and societal value," read the official announcement on the award-giving body's website.


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