Branding a community interest company involves a mind-shift when it comes to values, as Without's work with Social Impact Coffee shows.
We all know that certain global coffee chains do everything to avoid paying their taxes and seem to prize profit over all else. So we were intrigued to hear about the launch of Social Impact Coffee, a new speciality roastery that believes every cup of coffee shouldn't just taste good but do good.
As a community interest company (CIC), Social Impact Coffee, which supplies corporate clients, reinvests 65% of profits into local community causes. Its transparent business model includes coffee beans from regenerative farms, zero waste cafés and farmers paid above the Fairtrade price.
Design studio Without helped the enterprise to stand out in a saturated market of feel-good claims with a brand that champions accountability by seeing people as profit, not cost.
Wise to greenwashing and the platitudes of corporate philanthropy, Without took radical transparency as a central theme, They built the organisation's identity on simplicity and openness, with a monochrome palette, clean type and bespoke suite of universal icons. Stripped back to the basics, this is a brand with nothing (and nowhere) to hide.
"When 65% of profits go to good causes, profit shouldn't be a dirty word," says Philip Koh, Director of Strategy at Without. "We were presented with a radical blueprint of how business could be run. So instead of looking at this as a charity, we applied the rigour and accountability of business to the business of doing good."
To challenge fluffy CSR (corporate social responsibility) claims, the brand hones in on accountability: an honest presentation of facts and numbers that illustrate an undeniably better outcome than the alternatives while staying humble and positive.
Logo, icons and tone
Inspired by Social Impact Coffee's eye-catching social contribution, a logo built from the % symbol builds accountability into the brand's heart.
Bespoke icons (built on a 65° angle grid) are used to illustrate bespoke client blends, tasting notes or key points brand statements. The overall tone is transparency, accountability and impact.
"Social Impact Coffee offers a radically different approach to business, but a literal approach to disruption or activism would be exhausting, especially as the brand needs to work in a range of environments for staff who may just want a lovely cup of coffee," says Roly Grant, creative director at Without. "Working closely with the Social Impact Coffee team – even roasting our own blend – helped us create a brand that uses the language of coffee craft to convey a wider mission."
Adrian Evans, the founder of Social Impact Coffee, says: "Progressive businesses realise that success isn't just return-on-investment; they're tapped into a real human value shift where people – consumers and workforces – seek purpose. If every bean sold has a positive impact, the more we scale, the better for everyone. When Without suggested we see jobs not just as an expense, but as profit, it really turned on a light."
The brand has already secured a listing with a global technology company. Adrian adds: "When lots of people do small things multiple times, like drink coffee, you get a big impact, but I didn't want to settle for what everyone else does. I chose to work with Without because they look to disrupt and do things differently. The outcome of that is real conviction."
Social Impact Coffee's new branding will roll out across all coffee packaging, merchandise, digital assets, social channels, and physical spaces throughout 2023.