Dean Cycon of Dean’s Beans


Dean Cycon is a Nobel Prize of Business Honoree as well as a leader and an inspiration within the B Corp community. Dean founded the first non-profit in the coffee space in 1988 called Coffee Kids. With an eye towards working in and with coffee farming communities, Coffee Kids was the first development non-profit of its kind. Dean shares with us how his passion and drive for Justice took him from being a civil rights lawyer, to non-profit founder, to social enterprise entrepreneur and the many lessons he learned along the way.


In this episode Dean spoke about the impacts of the coffee industry, and really the best way you can ensure your coffee is making a difference is two simple steps, know how much is being paid to farmers, and know that the coffee is organic to help protect the environment.

  • Find out how much your favorite coffee shop pays for their coffee beans and decide if you feel it is a fair price in comparison to the current market value and the needs of the farmers.
  • Support coffee companies that are invested in the success of coffee communities that they get their coffee from (Dean named a few in addition to Dean’s Beans; Equal Exchange, and the 17 members of Cooperative Coffees).
  • In addition to fair trade, make sure it is certified organic to help minimize the impact to the planet.


Dean’s Beans

Coffee Kids

B Corp Certification

Fair Trade Certification


Dean Cycon [0:04]
My mantra is growth is the outcome of business done well, it’s not the goal. If you do business well, you will grow as opposed to doing whatever you can to grow.

Benn Marine [0:24]
From Dirigo Collective. This is Responsibly Different sharing stories of certified B corporations and our journey, joining them, leveraging business as a force for good.

Welcome back to the Responsibly Different podcast, I have quite the treat for you all. Dean’s icon is many things. Former social justice lawyer, founder of a nonprofit, founder of a coffee company, and winner of many awards, including in Oslo Business for Peace, better known as the Nobel Prize of Business. What I appreciate most about Dean is that he is so much more than what he has accomplished. He is an inspiring visionary working towards justice. He’s not deterred by what is or has been, rather just looks forward, working towards a brighter tomorrow for his team, the community and everyone along his supply chain. Dean shares with us some of the many trappings of certifications, including fair trade and B Corp certification, as well as the differences between creating change and charity and the merits of each even shares how you can take action in many different ways to create change. Because of this, and how inspired our conversation left me, we’re going to hear the entire interview. And because of the length, we’re gonna be omitting the level up segment at the end of this episode. And if you’re looking forward to it, though, I recommend listening keenly to what Dean has to say, and be sure to check out our show notes at where we will list out ways you can level up with that. Let’s jump on into my conversation with Dean of Dean’s Beans.

Dean, let’s start off with your background. You were an environmental and indigenous rights lawyer for a while. did you go from that to coffee?

Dean Cycon [2:25]
Ever since high school when the Vietnam War was on, and then it was ended because of lawyers and people in the streets. Ever since then I really passionately wanted to be an agent of change. And at the time, it seemed like being a lawyer was the right way to go about it. So I had that in my mind. I went to law school, I worked at a big law firm to get the training. And after three years of that, I went out on my own. And I focused on environmental groups and indigenous peoples in the United States in Canada. That was really, really powerful work and important work. But the time came where I felt like I was actually legitimating, the very system I was trying to change, which is a profound learning for a young lawyer. Also, to be frank, I didn’t have the constitution for it, if you’ll pardon the pun. I don’t like lawyers, I don’t like being in rooms with lawyers. I don’t like the tricks they pull and the manipulations. And so I thought, you know, where, where are my skills and my experience to be put into service better. And so I was teaching part time at University of Rhode Island teaching part time at UMass; environmental and indigenous rights courses. And a wonderful opportunity came my way. I was giving a lecture a public lecture at URI on the causes of deforestation in Brazil. Afterwards, a man came out of the audience who was a professor, and he said, I have a friend here in Providence, who is the owner of a coffee shop. He buys coffee from Brazil, right where you’re talking about. But he knows the farmers are really poor. And he’s making a good living off coffee. So he wants to give something back. Maybe you can talk to him. So I did a little research and found that there were no nonprofits doing development work in coffee communities around the world. They were in the countries but not particularly in those communities. Then I did further research and found that about 85% of all coffee farmers were indigenous peoples, and I knew that indigenous peoples have a certain set of concerns that other people don’t have. And I had a lot of experience at that point working with indigenous communities. And so I felt you know this, this is a good place for me to show up. So I met with the guy, Bill Fishbein by name. And Bill, I and the third person, that Professor decided to form the first nonprofit organization in the coffee world called Coffee Kids. And that’s how I got my start in coffee, if I had been giving that lecture and the guy came out of the audience and said, hey, I’ve got a friend who makes shoes, I would have been Tom’s, right? But I did coffee. So it was purely fortuitous. And I highly recommend to people that no matter where they’re at, and what they’re doing, they keep their mind open. Because these kind of potentials come to you all the time. And I fortunately grasped that one and have written it for over 30 years now.

Benn Marine [5:52]
Oh, my goodness, that’s amazing. Can you talk to us a little bit about Coffee Kids?

Dean Cycon [5:56]
Certainly. So Coffee Kids was the first nonprofit development organization in coffee. At the time, I took my first trip to Guatemala and El Salvador with a group called Plan International, formerly called Foster Parents Plan. So I went there to see what they were doing in in a coffee region. And it was one of those organizations and there’s still plenty of them. That, you know, you send X number of dollars a month, and then you get a letter from the kid, and you hear the progress. And when I went and saw that, on the ground, it was clear that that was a little marketing. That was all marketing, you know, do kids write letters, sometimes mostly the NGO workers do, but even if they do, are they doing it because they want to, are they doing it because they’re told to by a hierarchy that suddenly threatens to shut off all the aid if they don’t comply. And I saw that and so with the programs were and I noticed a number of other things like, these programs, basically run for three years, all of these development programs run for about three years, and then they shut down and move on. So just like slash and burn agriculture, which works in this valley for three years, you know, and then they move on after they’ve depleted the soil, and then let that soil replenish. This is now slash and burn development, where these development organizations go into communities around the world, and they start a program that’s going to, you know, budgeted and, and designed to last for about three years. At the end of that three years, they pack up and go. And I said to a number of large organizations such as Care, Save the Children, Plan International, well, what happens in that town or that valley, after you leave, and they universally said, we don’t know, it’s not in our budget. That’s not our model. So I thought, well, this isn’t what I want to do. So from the beginning, my role in Coffee Kids was to design the international development component. On this side, David, the professor, and Bill, the coffee shop owner, they would go to the coffee industry and try to raise money to pay for the programs that I’m going to design with the farmers. So already, it’s very different from international development, because I’m including the farmers in the development of the programs, that’s just not done. Pretty much international development organizations, especially what are called bingos, big international NGOs. The bingos have a cookie cutter form, you know, hey, we’re gonna come in here and put a chicken project in here, you want a chicken project? Well, I don’t know that we want a chicken project. Well, that’s what we’re offering, you get it or you get nothing. Okay, we’ll take the chicken project, and your kids are going to have to write letters once a month. Okay, they’ll write letters. And kind of that’s the structure. You know, it’s not community driven. It’s driven by the priorities, and the sort of marketing reality of the day of international development organizations. So I wanted to break that chain, break that model. So in coffee kids, I designed a program where our job was to go into these communities and facilitate a dialogue with the farmers to uncover what were their development priorities. Not what do you need, what do you want, but a more facilitated approach to really uncover what was going on inside the community. So that would lead to, you know, we have a need for clean water. Okay, well, how should we manifest that? And interestingly, in one village in Guatemala for different women’s groups, I ended interviewed with this process came up with four different ways of doing it. So community development, and international, this is what we do development are radically different things. So I really wanted to shake up the development world. And that’s what Coffee Kids did. So we had small programs, but meaningful programs in villages all over Latin America, and one in Sumatra, in Indonesia. And that was great. And it was good, solid charity, right? The companies would give the money to coffee, kids, coffee, kids would turn around and put it into these villages. But then I started to notice something. Over time, I noticed that the companies were starting to make claims on their packaging, and in their advertisements that really didn’t represent the relationship they had with us. They would say, we have a project in Guatemala where we are bringing water to farmers, like no, you’re not actually all you’re doing is contributing money. And worse than that, I noticed that the companies weren’t changing how they did business with the farmers. So nothing was going to break the chain of chronic poverty and chronic under development. Because the coffee companies were buying from the farmers, which accounted for almost 100%, in most cases of the farmers income. They weren’t changing any thing about the way they did business. So how is a farmer going to get out of poverty, if nothing changes, but at least they got a new well, right, or this, at least the school got a new roof, that’s nice. But that’s charity, it’s not change. And I came to understand that charity is really about maintenance charities about maintenance of the system, but trying to make it kinder and gentler. It’s not about fundamental change. So I thought, wow, this model is helpful. But it’s not bringing about change, which I want to be a change agent, not a maintainer of the current system. I don’t want to be a nice guy maintainer of the current system, there’s plenty of them out there. And the philosophy, to be honest, is, let me get mine. And then I’ll give you a little something back. But that’s not justice. That’s not equality, and certainly not change. So I didn’t want to do that. So I decided to try and experiment. I decided to create a company to sort of model how companies could behave, if they really believe that farmers were their partners, they really believe that they want to help the environment. And what would it look like? I thought, what would it look like if a company paid real money to the farmers, and maybe the farmers wouldn’t have to look to outside organizations to build a well where to send their kids to school if they had the money. So that was part one. Part Two was, could accompany participate in social, economic and environmental change in those villages, and still be profitable, not by giving money to a charity, or an NGO who’s going to do the work, but by actually engaging itself directly with those farmers that they claim are their partners all the time. So the question is, can you pay real money? Can you become involved in development in a serious way? And can you still be a profitable company, because if you’re not a profitable company, here we are, we’re Coffee Kids, again, if you are a profitable company, then you’ve proven that the model works. And these companies in coffee, who didn’t want to give money to Coffee Kids, because Oh, we don’t make enough money, we can’t afford to give you money, yada, yada, yada. You know, it disproves their marketing line. And so I set out in 1993, Coffee Kids started in 88. I set out in 1993, to create a business model that was basically Coffee Kids as a business. And that was Dean’s Beans. And here we are. 28 years later, Dean’s Beans is very successful. We grow at a rate that I’m comfortable with, because I’m not a believer that growth should be a driver of business. My mantra is growth is the outcome of business done well. It’s not the goal. If you do business, well, you will grow as opposed to doing whatever you can to grow, which in many cases means closing this factory, because it’s cheaper to do something in Mexico or the former East Germany, right? Because they don’t have the environmental regulations. They don’t have the labor protections, right. So I wanted to do a different And that’s what we’ve done. And it’s been very, very successful. So I’ve proven it.

Benn Marine [15:07]
That’s amazing. That’s amazing. What? So thinking about the coffee industry at large? I’m curious, in your time working in the coffee industry, both with Coffee Kidds, and then of course, the Dean’s Beans. What has what have you seen change? And what still needs to change that you feel like hasn’t changed fast enough?

Dean Cycon [15:28]
Well, you know, I don’t believe that, you know, I disagree with former President Obama and frankly, Martin Luther King, that the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, it only bends towards justice, if you’re working your butt off, and you don’t give up. Because when you slow down and give up, then those opposing forces of greed and selfishness and fear they resurge. So in the in instance of the coffee industry, it took it took a lot of years to go from asking people to give a donation and the people in the coffee industry saying, why do we have to give you a donation, we already buy the coffee, you have no sense of community obligation partnership with those coffee communities. That’s how it was in 1988, when we first started, that has changed dramatically. Most coffee companies now try to have some sort of, I won’t say direct relationship with farmers, because that’s not true. But they will have to have some sort of they want to have some sort of knowledge about the people they’re buying from. So the problem is that, as I said, you know, you make this arc, and then there’s blowback, right? And so a lot of the companies basically took the message of Hmm, we really need to be real partners with these farmers. That was the message of Coffee Kids and the message of our wave of companies back in the, in the, in the basically the 90s. So that was Dean’s Beans, Equal Exchange, the 17 members of Cooperative Coffees, which I was one of the founders of that are all over the country. We all try to have real relationships with the farmers that are meaningful. And then what happened is that became mainstreamed as these things do, you know, the idea of having a relationship with the farmer, the idea of trying to help bring change in the environment, and then the economy got mainstreamed. And companies took that and tried to figure out a way to make the message work without really changing the way they did business. And that’s where we are today. There are a lot of companies who are marketing the message, greenwashing, whatever you want to call it, trade washing, but not really changing the business model. So interestingly, I’ve seen a lot of companies advertise that their direct trade, they have a direct relationship. And when that first started in the 90s, the companies that started that, which were Counterculture and Intelligentsia, they tried to have a model where they had a direct relationship with farmers they bought from now, it was never 100% it was only a couple of the farmers they bought from the rest they bought on the open market like everybody else. But you wouldn’t see that in the marketing. You know, it’s a very tough world out there, in the marketing and in, especially in the coffee industry. But what happened is this sort of next generation of coffee companies took that direct trade model. And they said, Well, we have farmer relationships too. But all they do is buy their coffee through a broker. And then the broker tells them what farm it was from, and gives them a little information, but they don’t have real relationships. And since direct trade is a marketing term, it’s not a certification. Although most people think it’s a certification. They can say whatever they want. And so unlike, unlike organic, which is a legal certification, and unlike fair trade, which is an industry certification, but has really firm standards, direct trade has none. Basically, you can slap a label on your bag that says direct trade, and it has whatever meaning you ascribe to it because it isn’t a legal or institutional certification program. And people don’t know that. So now companies have discovered, wow, we can call ourselves direct trade. We can call ourselves beyond fair trade. We can call ourselves beyond organic and those terms have no meaning whatsoever, but we can Say that to the public, which is so desperate to hear meaning, and not really change the way we do business we’re buying through a broker. Here’s the most interesting fact and coffee. And this kind of tells you, at the end of the day, what’s going on with coffee in the late 1970s, when I was just starting law, the ratio between what a farmer made and what a retailer made, coffee shop, right? was $1 to $3. So for every $3, the coffee shop got the farmer got $1. So it’s 1 to 3. Do you have any idea what the ratio is today with all this fair trade and direct trade and partner farmers and everything? It’s 1 to 15 or 1 to 20. So the farmers getting a buck and the retailer’s selling that coffee, for $15 – $30 a pound. The inequality and coffee is so ridiculously much larger now than it was when I started as a lawyer in all this. It shocking and it’s shameful. So the truth is, and this is why I started Dean’s Beans, right? To prove that we have so much money in the coffee trade, that we can be really responsible players and still make profit. So our philosophy is buy high sell low, right, which is just the opposite of what you learn in business school, you learn buy low, sell high, right, which is what it is in the coffee industry. So we do buy high, sell low, we pay the farmers as much as we can, and still be in business. And we sell as low as we can. So that you don’t have to be, you know, an Amazon employee making $200,000 bucks a year, buy our coffee, you don’t have to have all this disposable income to participate in just trade. I want the people of Orange, which is one of the lowest income communities in Massachusetts to buy our coffee, I want them to be able to afford our coffee, not just people with higher education degrees who earn over $80,000 a year, or $100,000 a year. No, I want the average person to be able to participate in just trade. Because if it isn’t, if they can’t, then it’s not really justice, is it? Right, it’s charity. Again, people with access money are willing to pay a little more to get this great coffee because they hear that the farmers are doing better. But the truth is the farmers are not doing better, right? That that statistic shows that the coffee industry is doing a hell of a lot better, but the farmers and doing better. So we’ve got a long way to go in coffee to address income inequality, which is at the basis of all of this. So the question is, for example, why are there so many people trying to cross our southern border? Is it crime? Is it drugs? Yeah, in part, but if you look at some countries like Guatemala, who are those people crossing the border, most of them are agricultural workers. And most of them are coffee, coffee workers, because they can’t afford to stay on the land. Why? Because the coffee company gets $25- $30 a pound. And they only pay a buck or a little over a buck for it. The price of production for the coffee farmer at this point is around a buck. So basically, the farmers are barely getting the cost of production in some months, because the price of coffee goes up and down on the international market. In some months, they’re not even getting enough to pay the costs of production. So what do they got to do? They got to leave the land. What did that mean? They tried to go north. So I’ve been saying for years, if you want to stop the majority, or a big percentage of the of immigration, pay good prices for the agricultural products, that’ll stop the problem where it starts. It’s not about the border, it’s about the money, we pay for coffee for products made in Mexico, whatever. If we paid a reasonable price for those things, people can stay at home. And believe me, I’ve talked to so many migrants from those countries, coffee farmers who say I would much rather be home. I want to be with my family. But this is what I got to do to support the family.

Benn Marine [24:46]
So what can consumers do, like coffee aficionados who are you know, care about people and planet and you know, to your point a lot of these labels and marketing are confusing atest and difficult to navigate what how? What would your advice be to consumers?

Dean Cycon [25:05]
It’s not easy for consumers, because frankly, a lot of companies are nice people who don’t really even understand all this stuff. So they are just passive participants in this brutal economy, then there are a lot of other companies who know exactly what’s going on. And they feed the consumer false information or misleading information by saying that they have equitable, or what’s the word Starbucks uses? Sustained, not sustainable sourcing, they have a new word for ethical sourcing, what does that mean, right? But if a consumer hears, oh, Starbucks, they do ethical sourcing, you know, en of discussion, it sounds good. So they think that that problem is solved, the farmers are being treated equitably, whatever that means, ethically, and so they move on. So you and there’s no place in the Starbucks website for you to find more information. Right? So it’s, it’s, it’s not that the consumer can’t do anything because they don’t want to do anything. But a lot of companies simply hold back real information from consumers. So a consumer has to dig really deep. A consume in a cafe. A consumer can ask the barista or the owner. Oh, where’s this coffee coming from? Oh, it comes from this farm in El Salvador? Okay. What do you pay for the coffee? It shouldn’t be a secret. What do you pay for the coffee? Oh, we pay more than fair trade price. What does that mean? What do you pay for the coffee? You know, and that’s another deceptive one, we pay more than fair trade. That’s what people say all the time. But what they mean is they pay more than the fair trade minimum. Because fair trade is not a price. Fair trade is a relationship. And part of that relationship is a fluctuating price. It goes like this for organic coffee. Fair traders agree that no matter what the market price, they will never pay less than $1.91 a pound. Okay. That’s the minimum. So that means if the market price the world market price goes below $1.91. Fair traders agree they will never pay less than $1.91. Okay, but if the price goes above $1.91, they’re gonna pay more than the market price no matter what that is. Having said that, over the last couple of years, the world market price has been around 90 cents. Okay. So the large companies are paying 90 cents a pound for their coffee. Well, there’s more for organics, let’s say $1.20. Why the fair trade companies are paying the minimum at least have $1.91. Right? So companies like us in like Equal Exchange and The Corporative Coffees people, we always pay way more than the fair trade minimum, even when the coffee price is 90 cents on the market. I’ll give you some examples. Last year, when the market price was 86 cents to 90 cents on the world market, we were buying coffee for anywhere from $2.50 to $3.00/$3.25 a pound depending on the origin. Okay? The minimum we were required to pay from fair trade was $1.91. But we wouldn’t pay that to farmers, they can’t live on it. Okay. But that was the only way for fair trade to get companies to participate in fair trade was to give them a minimum that they felt they could live with. And the farmers said, yeah, we can, we can live with it, too. But the truth is, the farmers can’t live with it. So we do real pricing as do these other companies I mentioned, we have direct relationship with farmers, we negotiate a real price that has meaning to the farmers and that we can handle, you know, and so that price has been to $2.50 to $2.60, $2.6565 to $2.95 $3.25. It’s been like that for years. And now it’s up to $4. Right? Now, that puts a squeeze on our profit. But that’s okay. Some years we make more some years we make less, but you know, our ratio, right? Our ratio is basically back to that. I think it’s 1 to 2.5. Right? Not 1 to 3, not 1 to 15 or 1 to 20. So, the first thing a consumer can do is try to find out what that company is paying, and then make a decision. You know, do I want to support this company who pays this money? Some people say yeah, what do I care or yeah, seems reasonable. That’s Fine, I always say let the consumer decide, but the consumer needs real data to decide. And that’s where the deception comes in. So it’s very difficult. Now, interestingly, for publicly held company like Starbucks, you can actually go to the SEC filings that are called what are they? 10k I think, you go to the SEC filings, and you can go on mine Starbucks SEC filings. And sometimes in that filing, you can see what they paid for coffee. So you can get a lot of information from those SEC filings because they have to reveal it. Or in their annual reports, sometimes they let that slip. But in last couple years, they’ve taken it out, because it’s just too rich information, you know, for the activists, but it’s very difficult for consumers to know what’s going on because it’s not in the company’s interest to let a consumer know, especially if they’re hiding something. And using marketing. It’s not really representative of what they’re doing. And unfortunately, there’s not a lot of legal, legal control of those things, except for false advertising stuff. And that’s kind of difficult to prove,

Benn Marine [31:11]
Oh, my goodness, that’s, that’s let’s admit, I mean, wow, that’s, and that’s gonna be super helpful for folks. And like, really important, kind of like, context, especially for for coffee lovers. You also do chocolate too, though, right? Is it a similar landscape with chocolate?

Dean Cycon [31:27]
Exactly the same with chocolate, we buy cocoa, you know, cacao cocoa we buy from Peru, and sometimes sometimes from Costa Rica. But, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s chocolate product all over the world, especially in Africa. And these are the exact same issues, there’s a fair trade and chocolate, right? For the same reasons, because cocoa farmers, just like coffee farmers are the low end of the totem pole. And actually, it’s the same with all primary commodities. It’s the structure of primary commodities in the world, whether it’s tea, coffee, cocoa, rice, you name it, primary producers are the lowest paid people in the world, all the money is in the processing, the packaging in the marketing, right? That’s where the money is, the primary producer gets pennies in all of these products. So fair trade, which started in coffee has expanded into a lot of these areas. Unfortunately, you know, I said, I said to the fair trade folks years ago, you have to be very careful about what we call mission creep. in a lot of places, you have to be very careful that you you don’t expand the things you’re doing before you’ve dug deeply into your original mission. So when when when Fairtrade started to go into clothing and a whole bunch of other things, I said, well, that’s great. But you as an organization don’t have the resources to monitor all these different Co Op primary products. So it’s not going to work very well. If you find out across the world, you’ve only you’ve only gotten about 5% of the coffee farmers in the world. That means there’s 95% of those coffee farmers waiting to work in this in this realm. And you’re going to abandon them to go start working in tea and everywhere else. It’s a great concept, but the reality is, you’re not serving the original population you set out to serve. It’s the same thing with companies involving in fair trade. Your you know, a fair trade is an ethical concern. Then you got to be 100% fair trade. Otherwise, what is it? It’s a marketing gesture. So Starbucks, for example. And I don’t mind saying this. This is public information. Starbucks is about 4% Fairtrade right now. So what does that actually mean? That means that if Starbucks gathers 100 farmers in the room, they say, okay, you, you, you and you, we’re gonna treat you fairly. You 96 business as usual, take a hike. So I mean, that’s what it is, right? If you’re 4% fair trade, you’re only using those ethical principles with 4% of your population. So to me, it’s like, you can’t be 4% fair trade, you can’t be 4%, ethical 4% just 4% kind, you know, it’s either a foundational principle of your life and your business or it isn’t, or its marketing. So I advise people, not to not to support companies that have a few Fairtrade offerings because all they’re trying to do is capture a new market, right? And shut up the activists and fool the consumer because if they see something that’s fair trade they go that’s great. But the supporting accompany that It only does that to keep them happy and quiet.

Benn Marine [35:03]
That makes a lot of sense. And I know even beyond working directly with farmers, you have some really great programs, I’d love to talk about Dean’s Beans, tremendously successful people centered development program. I’m curious how that works.

Dean Cycon [35:15]
So thepeople centered development program is basically the Coffee Kids goes into the, into the private realm. So what what I, I developed, I developed a developmental philosophy and procedure at Coffee Kids. And I’ve taken that and incorporated into the foundational business model of Dean’s Beans. What that means is with every cooperative because we only work with cooperatives, with every cooperative we work with in every country, we offer our development program. And what that means is besides that, the high prices, you know, what else we do is we meet with the communities, and we interview the women’s groups, we interview the co op leaders, we interview other civic groups in the area, the farmers, their families, and we start to find out what are the developmental priorities? What are the things that are holding you back from realizing your goals as a family and as a community, it’s very, very interesting to do that. Because people always think, well, we want to have this or we want a road or we want a factory, so we’ll have jobs or whatever. But when you really dig deep, people want things that are going to make their lives more immediately better. And that tends to be more income in their household, cleaner water for their community, better schools, better teachers, you know, and health care, home whole host of things like that. So what we do then, is we take the top couple of priorities, and we work with the community, we identify them and we say, Okay, now what we’ll do is let’s create a program to address the highest priority. But we’re not going to just call on some outside organization and say, Hey, can you come in here and build a well? Can you come in here and start a school? No, the farmers are going to own and operate and manage the program, because then they have buy in, and ownership. And it’s not going to succeed if they’re passive recipients of something that can come and go as the development organization pleases. But they are going to really work hard for something that’s theirs, they own it. And they immediately see, okay, you know, this is real, we’re doing this. So we design a program with the farmers that the farmers are going to manage and own, and then we’re going to fund it. Where are we getting the money? We’re not going to churches, we’re not going to governments, we’re not going to NGOs, the money comes from the sale of the coffee. So once again, can a business, you know, pay fair prices for the product, and not only participate, but fund those development initiatives in every community and still be profitable as a company? And the answer is a resounding yes. So give you some examples of some of the programs, right? So, in Peru, we have programs ranging from women’s loans funds that are managed by the women’s themselves and so much meaning because the women know what their families need, and they take loans to fix the kitchen. So the smoke isn’t getting into their eyes and causing blindness when they’re older and have better food. They do bathroom programs where they make not these cement latrines that always international organizations do but real bathrooms that look like a Marriott, you know, you’d be shocked to see on these farms, that what these farmers want for bathrooms, they want real bathrooms with dignity like we have, they want a bathtub, they want to sink, they want a toilet that flushes you know, they want tile, they want to pull in the floor covered with cement, you know, which is the international standard, right? So so it’s a dignity thing to you know, the farmers want to recognize an increase their own dignity and self worth. And to be honest with you, that is actually the little secret of what we do. It’s even less about the development project itself, than it is about helping the people achieve self esteem and dignity. So that they then go into the marketplace and say, Hey, we deserve a better price. We demand a better price. And I see that with all the cooperatives I work with, over time what develops on these great programs, but even more significantly as a sense of self, where people don’t see themselves as the victim or the passive price. taker as they used to call themselves, but now they are the price maker. And they are more, you know, more agency in their own lives. And to me, that’s revolutionary. Because change doesn’t happen because people get things. Change happens because people change their attitude about who they are in their relationship to a system. That’s fundamental change. And that’s what I’ve been driving for all these years.

Benn Marine [40:24]
That’s amazing. I think that’s also so cool, too, because then people have the skills and tools to when a problem comes up, you know, whether or not you’re involved, they’re like, okay, we solve this problem. Now we can solve that problem.

Dean Cycon [40:36]
Absolutely. Absolutely. Some of the cops I work with are doing the most amazing things. Now a lot of them are starting young farmer programs, because they recognize, hey, if there’s not a lot enough work here, besides growing coffee, which doesn’t necessarily pay the bills, our kids are going to leave, if the kids leave, and we age, end of story. And so they’re starting programs, what can we do to keep our kids around. So they’re starting trainings, and computer and marketing, and all the things that the kids can do in and farming advanced farming techniques that kids can do to make the organization of the co op stronger and better in the marketplace. So now instead of having either having no marketing, which none of them did, 10 years ago, now, or hiring an outside marketing firm for money that they don’t have, their kids are becoming savvy in marketing, and their kids are becoming savvy in the internet. It’s amazing what’s going on. So every, almost every kid in every country I work with, now, they’ve got a cell phone, they can check the market price, you know, they can see what how other people are advertising themselves, they can communicate directly with me, or sometimes we do zoom calls, and they meet some of my customers, and they talk directly to the customers. You know, that’s cool. That’s wonderful. That’s breaking the chain.

Benn Marine [42:05]
That is really cool. That’s really, really cool. You also have some really great products under your Sweet Justice product line. Can you speak about those products and how they’re fueling your social justice efforts on the state side.

Dean Cycon [42:17]
Right, because it’s not only about the farmers, I mean, social justice, justice is justice. So I often find people involved in, I sometimes find people involved in social justice work, have sort of like a pet people they work with. So they’re really good to farmers, but they treat the cap verdian workers in their roasting plant, you know, with less than the same justice that they treat the farmers. And to me, justice is an underlying foundational principle of who you are as a person, and who we are as a company. It’s not pick and choose, you know, which when we get into the B corpse a little later on, I have to say, sometimes companies can get away with even in B Corp, which is a great organization, they can get away with getting all these points for having treating their workers well, or treating the environment well, but not a lot of points for treating their suppliers well, right. And so I’m a B Corp, and this other companies, a B Corp, and yet we couldn’t be any different from each other. So that’s a struggle I’ve had, and I’ve shared this B Corp since the beginning, you know, some big or some, some big multinational company that spends a lot of money onemployee manuals and operating manuals, a lot of points for that. Dean’s Beans doesn’t have a lot of operating manuals, you know, we don’t spend our money that way. You know, so we don’t get a lot of points for that. So companies can get themselves into B Corp status, without having a lot of real impact on both environmental and social justice. You know, something has to be worked at. But once again, as I’ve as I’ve, as I said, with fair trade, when we have the same issues in fair trade, I said, Well, look, why don’t we just put out a big grid with all the companies on one axis and all the categories on another axis, and then people can look at it and say, oh, Dean’s Beans is 100% fair trade, but they only sell a million pounds a year. I want to support them because they’re really dedicated, 100%. Someone else can say Starbucks, or they’re only 4%. But they sell, you know, 4 million pounds of fairt trade coffee here because they’re so huge. I rather support them because they support more farmers than Dean’s Beans. Okay, fine. At least you have the information to make a decision. So I think and I said we need to put this out so that the public can see it. And the fair trade Organization of time said absolutely not. And said why not that customers, consumers will have the information they need to make informed decisions? And they said, the big companies who signed the license agreements wouldn’t go for it. Because they have confidentiality agreements. And I said, Yeah, but you’re the ones who created the contract. You put the confidentiality agreement in there. Why’d you do that? Well, because they wouldn’t have signed on if we did didn’t. I said, Well, what are they trying to hide? Right? So in B Corp, I say the same thing. I think people need to be able to see all those points, go into Dean’s beans and look at the B Corp stats, see where they did well, where they’re falling down and what they’re going to do about it, then they can decide whether they want to support this B corporate that B Corp, or no B Corp at all. I really believe I’m such a justice person. People need real information so that they can make decisions that will drive change. That’s the only way change happens. That makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. So going back to Sweet Justice. Sweet Justice, our is our sugar and our chocolate products. All our non coffee products are Sweet Justice, basically. And I thought, you know, since the coffee money is going to the coffee farmers, and also to the sugar farmers and the cocoa farmers. I said, you know, why don’t we have a program that specifically funds, all the stuff we do here. Because we do a lot of stuff here. We do a lot of activism and advocacy. We testify at both the federal and state level, we lobby and advocate. We work with nonprofit organizations, Justice organizations, in a whole bunch of things from GMO labeling to pregnant worker’s rights to fair, fair wages and, and better working conditions were in all that we believe in it. So we decided thatwhy don’t we take the profits from the Sweet Justice products and dedicate them to our American work, rather than our international work. And so now we have, you know, clear places where people can see, okay, we’re going to buy these, this chocolate product or whatever chocolate covered coffee beans, hot cocoa mix, we’re going to buy that stuff, knowing that it’s supporting all this really cool stuff here in the States, too. So that’s Sweet Justice.

Benn Marine [47:30]
Also state side, you have a really cool program ensuring that kiddos that are food insecure, have access to meals, can you share with us how the kids stimulus package program came to be and how folks can get involved with it?

Dean Cycon [47:43]
Absolutely. So what happened was, you know, I mean, child hunger is an issue in America. But I’ll be frank, even with, you know, thinking of myself as well informed and educated and involved. I had no idea, the level of child hunger in western Massachusetts, let alone the rest of the country. But when COVID hit, the level of child hunger went off the charts, because a lot of those kids were getting their food through your school, the school lunch programs. And I really didn’t know that. But I read an article in the local paper about, you know, this, this tripling of child hunger in Western Mass, and how the schools were trying to step up to meet the needs and figure out new ways of getting food to kids because the kids aren’t in school, and they’re not allowed to congregate in large groups. Yeah, so what are they going to do? So we contacted 10 school districts in our, in our area of Western Mass from large to small, from urban to rural, and we started a dialogue with them, basically, we took the people centered development program and applied it here with child hunger. And we said to the schools, you know, what are the biggest issues you face? And and how can you overcome them, you know, in the short term in the long term, and basically what they said in the short term is we just aren’t we need money. The feds are funding a lot of the food, but they’re not funding the overtime for lunch, ladies. I call them lunch ladies. Because of my age, right? It’s the cafeteria workers right? When I was a kid, it was all the little lunch ladies. So I even call them lunch, ladies. And the school workers laugh because it’s like, people haven’t called them lunch ladies and 20 years, right? So the cafeteria workers and the bus drivers who are coming in to take the bus that doesn’t have kids on it, but as a lot of food on it, and it’s doing its ordinary route, and the families are picking up food at the bus stops, you know, really clever ways of getting food to those families. So they needed money. So I thought okay, at the same time as I’m learning this, a weird thing happened to Dean’s Beans. The first week after COVID restrictions hit all the cafes. shut down and allow the supermarket’s closed. Yeah, a lot happened. So we lost 80% of our customers in a week, it looked pretty dire. But I made a promise to everybody and 16 people at Dean’s Beans that we would not shut down. Everybody would stay employed. I thought COVID What’s it going to last two months, you know. So we will keep everybody on all benefits the same, even if we have to do something different. And then we met as a group and people centered development, I said to the all the workers at Dean’s Beans, what do we need to do to feel safe? What do we need to do to meet your situation? Because you now have kids at home who don’t go to school, you have an elderly parent, what do we got to do to make this work for everybody. So the team decided on split shifts, which we’ve never had, so that no more than four people would be on the roasting floor at one time. You know, we put it all the plastic and the lines on the floor and you know, new masks or everybody, new fans, everything we did all that the folks in the office could split their time at home. And we installed, you know, internet access to people’s houses, we did everything we could to keep us afloat. And then what happened is in the third week of COVID, all of a sudden, our web sales tripled. And our web sales went from being 20% or 25% of our business, to being 65%, 70% of our business. And all of a sudden, we were actually making more money than we were before COVID. And as wonderful as that seems as a business. I was shocked. And I thought, wow, me and Jeff Bezos, right, we’re making a fortune on COVID. But I’m not Jeff Bezos. So we’re going to take that money. And we’re going to give it to the schools, there’s our pot of money. So we made about $150,000 extra dollars in the first eight months of COVID. And we put $150,000 into the school systems, we did it based on the number of meals they were serving per week. And it’s you know, the size of the school. And that’s how we divvied up the money. So Springfield got $20,000, in Greenfield got $5,000 kind of thing, because of the size of the schools and the number of meals. And that’s what we did. And that’s what we’ve continued to do at the same time. And that’s the Kids Stimulus Package. Right? Because I thought, you know, banks get stimulus packages, auto companies get stimulus packages, why shouldn’t kids get stimulus packages. So that’s why we created and how we created the Kids Stimulus Package. What we’re doing now is meeting with those schools and starting to interview community groups about what are the real causes of child hunger in these areas? And what can we as a business, and what can other businesses do to help address the root causes of child hunger, not just, again, a band aid at the end by giving food which is essential, but it’s it’s trying to, it’s trying to put out the fire over here, rather than go and stop it at the source. So that’s our new program for the foreseeable futures. Like how do we tackle child hunger locally?

Benn Marine [53:16]
You’ve been B Corp is kind of circling back. You mentioned B Corp certification, and you’ve been certified since 2018. I’m curious, how did you hear about B Corp certification? And what was the certification process like for you all,

Dean Cycon [53:28]
I heard of B Corp when they first started because a friend of mine was consulting to them how to get started, and he told me about it. And I thought that area, another label another certification. I looked at it and to be honest, my first thought was, Why do I need to be certified doing something we’ve been doing for 20 years? You know, we’re honest, we tell people exactly what we do. You can come in and look at our books, you can interview the farmers yourself, I don’t need that certification. These other companies need that certification. On the other hand, the more I talked to the people, I thought, you know what, this is a really good program. And if it gets people to become more involved, and then once they’re involved, start to go higher and higher. It’s a good thing. So I want to support it. So even though I to be honest with you, Dean’s Beans doesn’t need to be a B Corp. We need to keep telling our story with integrity and transparency. Having said that, I want to support B Corp. So I went and looked at the standards. So I looked at the standards. And the first thing I saw was you got more points for having operating manuals than you did for community development. And I thought, whoa, wait a minute. Something’s wrong here. And it’s not that the people aren’t well intentioned, right? It’s that the way they’re looking at how a company should be better be you know, benefit and my view or maybe a little different. So I had some conversations with them. And I said, you know, to be honest with you, I’m not that interested yet. I don’t know a year or two went by, and they change some of that. And I kept having the conversation. And I also felt bad that I wasn’t supporting them, because I think it’s a great initiative. So I joined, we did our first it was, we had already done it before, you know, you do an intake survey of who you are and what you do, and start racking up the points. And interestingly enough, when I did it the first time, we barely had enough points to be a speaker. And I’m like, we can’t be a B Corp; are you kidding? But then when I actually did it a couple years later, we did it with flying colors. But again, you know, another problem for me was, okay, so maybe we’re a B Corp with 180 points. But there’s this other B Corp with 90 points. But we’re both B Corps. So what does that saying to the public? You know, it’s not given the full story. And again, not ill intentioned, but from a justice point of view. consumers need information to make intelligent and educated decisions, informed consent, right? So I keep speaking at the B Corp conferences, and letting people know my thoughts on these things, and pressing the companies that are out there to do better, or to look at things a little differently. And that’s where we are. But I think B Corp is a great organization. And I hope that it’s I hope that it sticks to its principles and doesn’t try to broaden its mandate like fair trade did. Because it’ll water it down. I hope it doesn’t water down standards to start letting larger, larger corporations in because as an organization, it’s kind of neat to get the licensing fees. That’s one of the problems that happened with fair trade. You know, it’s like, we need those licensing fees. Well, we’ll just lower the standards a little bit. That happened. And I’m I hope it doesn’t have would B Corp, I’m sure it won’t. But we have to keep our eyes on these things, you know, in, you know, trying to be inclusive of large organizations, at the risk of your integrity, that equation,

Benn Marine [57:16]
That makes a lot of sense. And I feel like, you know, especially from our conversation, a big takeaway that I think is important for folks to keep in mind is that certifications are a great place to start. But that’s it shouldn’t be the end of the story like, right like that, then it’s on us to consumers to dig deeper and find out, you know, to what extent are they living by that that metric? Or that mark?

Dean Cycon [57:40]
Absolutely. I mean, if a company has no certifications, but they’re really transparent, and you look at them and say, Oh, I like what they do. They’re just not making a lot of noise about it, or they don’t want to spend money on certification fees, I get that, I’ll support him. Or you look and say, they’re not doing anything, they’re just making a lot of money, right? They’re not helping the environment, they’re not helping people, they’re not helping society. I’m not gonna support them. And as we look at all these labels, and seals, you know, it’s, it’s daunting, because there are a lot of men out there that don’t mean a lot. You know, so it’s consumers. A lot is on the consumer to make an educated, they’re going to make an educated decision. However, with the internet, with social media, with Yelp, you know, there’s there’s plenty of sources for information these days. That’s true. If someone wants to take the time.

Benn Marine [58:38]
Yeah, it’s true. I’m curious, what would your advice be for businesses that are well intentioned, and they want to make an impact on the world? And they, you know, they want to kind of follow in your footsteps, if you will. But maybe they just don’t know where to start? Or they don’t know. You know, I think for for us, that’s where like the the B Corp certification was a great kind of launchpad. But I’m curious your thoughts on any advice you might have for folks.

Dean Cycon [59:04]
So we have a we have a philosophy, we call it the 360 degree view. So what we do is at Dean’s Beans, we stand there and point to something and say, are we doing that in accordance with our highest values? And we move over to the next thing? are we are we dealing with them in accordance with our highest values, and go all the way around so that everything we’re touching, we’re analyzing through a value lens. So you can say the same to anybody? Look at your supply chain. If you’re buying anything and using anything, including your shipping, are you using UPS or FedEx or the post office? You know, there’s issues there’s issues you got to look out with all those things. FedEx doesn’t allow unions, FedEx hires contracts with men to buy the truck. And the truck owner hires the workers. The truck owner has no responsibility to pay the worker well, or, I mean, this horror stories I hear from the FedEx Delivery men on the ground. But you don’t know that because they don’t really work for FedEx, they work for the guy who owns the truck. The truck owner has a contract with FedEx. So FedEx, those aren’t their employees, they don’t pay benefits, they don’t have nothing to do with them. UPS is a union shops, it’s totally the opposite. The post office, we know about the post office, if we want to keep the post office alive, we got to support it, you know, and get rid of the people who were in there, ripping it off and closing it down. So even even something simple as mailing your business packages, there are values choices that come from whatever your act is. So I think if you look at everything you do slowly over time, and say, Hmm, what are the issues here that people are talking about? You can find everything online? And and how are we dealing with that? Are we comfortable with the way we do or don’t deal with this issue? Or maybe it’s an issue we should start thinking about? You know, whether it’s solar power, who you ship with the farmers you buy from the people, it’s so your clothes, you know, the bags you buy? for a couple years, Starbucks was having its Christmas gift kits made in prisons? Like whoa, is that ethical sourcing? Is that the values that you aspire to? And show to the public? No, you know, so they got busted for that, and they stopped. But again, it’s easy. If you’re if you’re the guy in charge of putting together gift packages for Starbucks, you look around you say, hey, if I do it in these prisons, we get a good deal. The prisoners get a nickel, but you know, we get it for $5. But if we had it done over here, who costs $10? So we’re going to make $5 more, and the prisoner is going to get a nickel. Yeah, you can justify it. But if you take a step back and look at it with a bigger lens, it’s like you’re supporting a private prison. industry that’s actually using these people as slave labor. You know, do you really want to support that, but you can find all that out now, you know, buy a little deep diving. So I say to businesses, all you got to do most most business people I know are are decent, hard working, ethical people who may not know what’s being done in their name and with their money. That’s the key. You know, I once gave a lecture about this stuff through a national gardening convention of gardening stores, they asked me to come and talk about ethical business. So I gave this, I gave this talk. And a woman came up to me afterwards who owned a gardening store. And she said, you know, Dean, I want to have a values based business, what do I got to do to have a values based business like yours? And I thought for a minute, and I realized I said, you already have a values based business, every choice you made represents a set of values. The question is, do they represent the values that you believe it? You’ve got to look at every decision you make? And you see what the values in that chain are? Do you want to represent prison labor, you believe in that you want farmers to basically not have enough money to make a living, but you get all the profit? Is that okay? If it’s not okay, then you have to change what you do to be in accordance with your values. So every every business is a values based business, it’s the values of the owner, right values of the workers. But are these values you aspire to? That’s the question.

Benn Marine [1:03:51]
So I’m so curious, kind of building off of that, thinking about companies that might have multiple people making different decisions? What is your advice to them to ensure that everybody’s on the same page, in terms of leading with those values, cuz I think it might be easy for somebody to have the best of intention, but having maybe impact that’s not in alignment with the values.

Dean Cycon [1:04:15]
That’s right. And in a lot of large organizations, you know, this this value stuff or ethical stuff, is slopped off to the marketing department, you know, which doesn’t have any impact on what’s called the C suite, you know, the corporate suite. They don’t have the impact up there. Or sometimes it’s a vice president of ethical sourcing, you know, but but they, they’re more like, guidelines, right? It’s not about I’m making a decision that the President is going to enforce. So I think, I think and this is where B Corp has really understands this. These things have to be embedded in the fundamental foundation of the business itself. Not left to the whim of the C suite or the marketing department. So what does that mean? That means that you’ve got to have articles of incorporation that say, you’re a benefit corporation, you’re here for the benefit of the public, whatever, and get a little more specific, then you go to the bylaws, which are really the operating principles in the business. And in the bylaws, you need to state and even B Corp doesn’t go this far. But in the bylaws, you need to state, this is how we do business. These are the things that are important to us. This is how we’re going to effectuate that, then in your operating manuals, it’s not just, you know, at the end of the day, at four o’clock, you sweep up your station, you know, the button, the operating manual really has to embed the values in it. So it’s not just an afterthought, or an add on, or like they seen with pollution in end of the pipe solution, right? It has to be part of the fiber of the business. And not just mission statement, or marketing fluff. It really has to be in the way people behave. And that’s got to be the marching orders of the business itself. And it takes a long time. Because businesses are complex and multifaceted. I remember Ben and Jerry’s, you know, everybody loves Ben and Jerry’s even before they were bought by Unilever. When Ben and Jerry were running Ben and Jerry’s, they had this product called Rain Forest Crunch. And point was to save the rain forest, because if they bought nuts from the resilient rain forest, then the trees would be able to stand because they have economic value because they get nuts out of them. If they’re not buying the nuts, and they’re being sold on the on the ordinary market, there’s not enough money to overcome. The guy who goes, that tree is worth $200. If I cut it down, it’s only worth $30. If I sell the nuts, right? That was that’s the economic equation. So Ben and Jerry’s came up with Rain Forest Crunch, and there’s this great product, but he’s eaten rain forest crunch. But what happened? Rain Forest Crunch got so popular that Ben and Jerry’s was manufacturing so much that they couldn’t get enough nuts from the cooperatives in the rain forest. So they bought 90% of their nuts on the ordinary market and didn’t tell anybody. And they got busted by the Boston Globe. And there’s this big article in The Boston Globe. You know, Ben and Jerry’s Rain Forest Crunch, a full rain forest crunch. It’s nuts from slave labor, who knows where their child labor? Nobody knows. Because on the open market, so then the next day, another article appears in the Boston Globe, Ben and Jerry’s give $5,000 to you know, The Boys Club. That’s what good guys they are, you know, covered over. So even even Ben and Jerry’s the best intention people can find themselves in a situation where it’s like, what what do we do? And I’m sure it wasn’t Ben and Jerry themselves going by nuts from the bar from the, from someplace else. He was somebody in their purchasing department, in cahoots with somebody in their marketing department, who weren’t on board with Ben and Jerry’s vision, if not the procedures, they were allowed to do that. But if Ben and Jerry’s have policies that said, you cannot buy nuts from anybody, but a cooperative, you know, a democratically run cooperative, you know, on a list put out by the National cooperative Business Association, okay, that would address that. So it’s very, very difficult and very time consuming. But it’s this stuff is more than marketing fodder. It’s about changing the world. This is the work you got to do.

Benn Marine [1:08:49]
I’m so curious, with all your experience, you know, working directly with farmers and leading and inspiring businesses. I’m curious what has been one of the most impactful experiences you’ve had in this whole journey.

Dean Cycon [1:09:02]
It’s so hard because there’sso many, but I think one of the most impactful was two years ago, Esperanza De Inicio, who’s the General Manager of Pangoa Cooperative, got up on the stage at the Specialty Coffee Association, annual meeting, and conference and was awarded with the sustainability award or leader of the year. So in 2003, I met Esperanza. She was the head of a co op of about 150 people in Amazonian Peru that was being besieged by the shining path, you know, that was flooded every year by the rivers. I they were really struggling, but they really wanted to do better. They only produce three containers that year. One was sold to an exporter for I think 65 cents a pound. One was sold to a local person, local x, local countrywide exporter for 50 cents a pound. And the rest was just sold in the local market for 40 cents a pound. That’s what they were getting paid. They got organic certification. They even got Fairtrade certification. But all that is is cert doesn’t guarantee anything, it just means you’re eligible. So I met them in 2003. They were very humble, and they just wanted to sell coffee. They gave me a little plastic bag with some coffee in it and said, Would you try our coffee, and I thought, I’m going to take a chance on these people. And so I took the coffee, roasted, it was good. And I said, I’m gonna buy a container of coffee from these people. So I contacted the guy who does the customs and stuff, it’s like, you’re gonna pay what I said at the time. This is you know, just like, almost 20 years ago, I said, I want to pay $1.65 for that coffee. He says, Are you insane? Do you know what they’re getting? So I said, Yeah, and I want to buy it for $1.65. So we did. So it was the first fair trade container they ever sold. And compare that to the other prices, right? It was double anything else they were getting even the best price they were getting. So all of a sudden, it’s like whoa, it showed them the possibilities. Then we started our development relationship. We started a reforestation program in valleys that had been wiped clean by USAID defunded development programs in the past. Now, when she stepped up on that stage, 18 years later, they have 350,000 trees planted hardwood trees all growing well. They have women’s loand funds, they have compost programs, they’ve got a recycling program, totally unique in the Amazon, you know, and there’s Esperanza going all over the world being a representative of women’s rights and cooperatives and fair trade. From when I met her, she was this humble little engineer who was in charge of this little Co Op. Now that Co Op went from selling the cherries just to the to the purchaser to doing everything, taking the cherries, cleaning them, grading them, packaging them, and exporting them under their own license. So that entire value chain stays in the community. And that’s all from that meeting, and our kind of involvement with Esperanza. Now, Pangoa is like the most in demand Peruvian Co Op. And they make I think they make like 30 containers a year now, all organic Fairtrade. So it really is making a difference both individually and personally, to Esperanza and a lot of the people who work at the co op, and economically and environmentally. So that to me is like the poster child of how our program works. And its success.

Benn Marine [1:12:57]
Oh, my goodness, that’s amazing. Anything else you want to add or share with listeners?

Dean Cycon [1:13:03]
Yeah, you know, I’m no miracle worker. I’m not like, I’m not Bill Gates. I’ve never invented the, you know, computer. I’m just like, really, I really believe in this stuff. And I believe that anybody can participate in meaningful change, if they if they want to, and you shouldn’t be afraid I’m, I’m not a lawyer. You know, I’m not a, you know, I’m not a 20 year social justice worker. It’s like, it doesn’t matter. You know, look at your own act, clean up your own act in accordance with the values you believe, and then offer something out. So we just started a pollinator garden Dean’s Beans, we’ve got this little mound that goes from Dean’s Beans down to the street. And we’re like, let’s turn that into a pollinator garden. Because monarch butterflies appear. Next, they’re in the Mexican coffee fields, and Mexican coffee fields using pesticides, which they do, they’re killing the monarchs, then if they come up here, and they’re in their habitat is destroyed because everybody’s building buildings, end the monarch butterflies. So between monarchs and bees, which are needed to pollinate coffee, we thought well, we could participate in our own little plot of land by having a pollinator garden. Anybody can build a pollinator garden, right? So you don’t have to have tons of money. You don’t have to be, you know, a Yale educated lawyer and social justice advocate, blah, blah, blah. Just a regular person. Making change whether it’s with your neighbor, or with somebody on the other side of the world. You can do it and you need to do it. Because it’s the only thing that ever brought change.

Benn Marine [1:15:06]
Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Responsibly Different. Again, due to the length of our conversation with Dean, we decided to keep the full interview intact. And move the level up section to the show notes which you can find at, if you’re feeling inspired, and responsibly different has had an impact on you in your life, record a little voice memo of the impact that has had on you and send it to us at That’s we’d love to hear about the impact you are having, and ways we can help support you. Next time on Responsibly Different Beautycounter’s VP of Social Mission shares with us the importance of putting your values into action and doing it in a meaningful way.

Find things that are really specific to whatever products you’re trying to put into the market. And think about where you would have the biggest impact and start there. You know, a good example would be Beautycounter really built our product line of at the intersection of creating clean beauty products that also work. And so the intersection of safe products that are high performing was really our niche. And we always cared about the environment. We always cared about sustainability, but it was something we didn’t really mean like tackle on a massive meaningful way until three years ago. And because there’s just no way we could have done it all right out of the gate, you know, and then since we’ve tackled sustainability, we’ve been looking at our packaging we’ve been looking at sourcing, and I think just trying to play the long game and understanding that creating positive impact doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s better to do less things well than to do a million things poorly.

Till next time. Be responsibly different. This is a production of Dirigo Collective. Claire Closson is our Project Manager. Jeremy Glass is our writer. The music is an original score by our very own Kevin Oates, and I Ben marine am your host and editor. To learn more about Dirigo Collective visit




Drink GREAT Coffee! from Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee on Vimeo.

Dean Versus Dean from Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee on Vimeo.