ecoBiz story - White Whale Coffee Roasters
For Far North Queensland coffee roasters Ali and Stephen Slotemaker, a sustainable business focus has more value than minimising their environmental impact, reducing emissions and saving money.
“They want to work at White Whale”: How sustainability is supporting a Far North Queensland coffee business
The duo’s decision to prioritise business sustainability has resulted in improved workforce attraction, a stronger and wider customer base and an engaged and passionate team – all of which value the businesses’ sustainable agenda.
Ali and Stephen accessed Business Chamber Queensland’s ecoBiz program in 2019 and almost immediately saw improvement in their waste and energy efficiencies.
Last financial year the ecoBiz two Star Partner business reduced their electricity intensity by 67% and fed close to 14,000 kilowatts of electricity back into the grid from their solar generation while also reducing their waste intensity by 30% in the same period.
ecoBiz coach Fiona Sleight attended the business to assess waste streams, solar and energy bills and how Ali and Stephen were managing the business utilities day to day.
“Most of the recommendations we were able to implement straight away. Some of the recommendations were a good reminder and hold you accountable on simple things like questioning why do we have the light on all day,” Ali said.
“Fiona, our local ecoBiz coach was fantastic. She has become someone I definitely reach out to and lean on for support and ideas.
“ecoBiz has made me really sit up and be accountable to our environmental goals and ambitions.
“The information and statistics we received are great because as a small business owner you don’t get time to crunch those numbers. Someone to do that for me was wonderful.
“We got some really good ideas about lighting. We had energy sucking lights in a very big warehouse so we had them changed to more efficient lighting which has saved thousands of dollars.”
The business is in the process of installing a 15kWh solar unit to further reduce grid power use and have stopped selling bottled water, instead installing a chilled water tap for customers to use.
Ali said the sustainable business focus has far-reaching benefits to the business and their workforce.
“As we’ve been on this journey we’re being more conscious of the environment and our sustainable footprint. The staff are more engaged and conscious. They want to work at White Whale because we value sustainability,” Ali said.
“Being sustainable really helps us with recruiting the type of people you want to have in your team. They’re conscious about the environment, customers and who they work with. In this competitive jobs market it is a bonus.
“We definitely pick up customers purely because of what they’ve seen about the business and the connection to the environment.”
Ali and Stephen have been roasting speciality coffee in Far North Queensland since 2010. White Whale Coffee Roasters’ name is in recognition of Migaloo the white whale which passes the Cairns coast during migration.
“We didn’t have great coffee in the area at the time. I missed the culture, community and connection that coffee shops added to cities. You go for the coffee but you get so much more. I missed the amazing coffee culture which is in other parts of Australia so we set about changing that,” she said.
“We educated ourselves, accessed training and a mentor then established a brand. We had a great opportunity to celebrate being a coffee roaster in Far North Queensland.
“We’re mindful on a daily basis of the ocean and the environment and we want to remind others of that too. We made a whole raft of changes towards more sustainable business practices and reducing our footprint on the environment.
“When you have your own business you are the driver – you get to design the business as you go and for us part of that was giving back, doing more and creating our own lifestyle.”
Ali studied environmental science at university but said it took her several years to connect her studies to business ownership.
“It seems so obvious now. We needed to look at our lives and what we were doing,” she said.
“The business was successful but it wasn’t exciting me personally. To get past surviving and to make the business thrive I had to find something worthwhile, to connect my purpose and the business together.
“We needed to look at everything we were doing because all the little things add up. We discovered ecoBiz on that pathway.”
Helping businesses increase efficiencies and save money
More than 100 Far North Queensland businesses have been supported on their sustainability journey through Business Chamber Queensland’s ecoBiz program.
Through the free program, funded by the Queensland Government, a team of ecoBiz sustainability experts work directly with businesses to identify opportunities to reduce water, waste and energy use, increase efficiencies, decrease their carbon footprint and save money.
Business Chamber Queensland data shows 42% of Queensland businesses expect sustainability and their environmental footprint to impact their business in the future. Our role is to prepare businesses for the important role they have in shaping the state’s future.
ecoBiz Star Partners, like White Whale Coffee Roasters, are awarded for demonstrating a minimum 10% improvement in their energy, water or waste efficiency. White Whale Coffee Roasters was one of 11 Cairns businesses to be award ecoBiz Star Partnership at the bi-annual ecoBiz Sustainable Leaders’ forum this year.
Between July 2018 and June 2022, Star Partners have achieved a total saving of more than $6.8 million in actual and avoided costs, saving the average business $11,000 a year.
Over the past four years, businesses have saved on average 24% on energy, 21% on water and 36% on waste with ecoBiz coaching.
For more details, to speak with a sustainability expert and to get involved and register now, see the ecoBiz website.