Case Studies

Peace Coffee

Peace Coffee began in 1996 with a mission to produce high-quality coffee while still paying fair, sustainable prices to its farmers. As a for-profit business owned by the nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Peace Coffee recognizes that success exists beyond its balance sheet; it can be found everywhere in the community. Transparency and sustainability comprise the core values of everything Peace Coffee does. Today, Peace Coffee’s commitment to sustainable practice makes it a model of social consciousness in the business world.

Increasingly, states have begun formally recognizing companies like Peace Coffee in a new class of for-profit business: the Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). The PBC classification allows companies to measure their success not only by the value they create for shareholders, but also the value they create within their wider communities. While the PBC does not offer the tax benefits of a nonprofit, it allows companies like Peace Coffee to formalize their guiding values—and to be held accountable for upholding their social responsibilities.

So in 2014, when Minnesota became one of nearly 30 states to sign the PBC classification into law, Peace Coffee saw an opportunity to make its values official. With the help of lawyers at Gray Plant Mooty, Peace Coffee was able to parse the nuance of the classification, receiving a clear picture of the law’s implications for their business. Peace Coffee trusted that GPM could anticipate the risks posed by the classification—no small feat, given the relatively new and untested nature of the law. Most importantly, Peace Coffee knew that GPM could help continue the work that has made the company so successful to date.

On January 2, 2015, when the law took effect, Peace Coffee filed to become one of the first PBCs in the state. As a PBC, Peace Coffee will be required to report to Minnesota’s Office of the Secretary of State every year, demonstrating the company’s actions towards ensuring fair prices for its farmers. And while Peace Coffee’s legal classification may have changed, its commitment to the community has not. For Peace Coffee, with the help of Gray Plant Mooty, it’s business as usual.

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