By having a clear, unambiguous purpose and communicating that directly to stakeholders of all varieties, Karma Cola has managed to secure both goodwill and buy-in from point-of-origin suppliers all the way through to end consumer.
“Demonstrating the direct relationships and transparency of our supply chain helps us engage with external partners, especially accounts and distributors selling our drinks, and justifies the premium positioning and price,” says the company.
That purpose—so unequivocally expressed—is the glue that holds together the organisation and strengthens its relationships with suppliers, partners and other stakeholders.
‘Think globally, act locally’ the saying goes, and that’s exactly how Karma Cola has approached its big plans for a better soda business.
“We had the goal to provide a route to economic independence to the first village we worked with in Sierra Leone and we’ve done that through our cola nut trading. We’re now working with over eight villages and extending the scope of the Karma Cola Foundation into other grower communities and other countries, including Sri Lanka and India.”
Another, less humble goal? To be the most popular ethical soda in the world.
“We’re on our way. Our growth has been dramatic – we launched just over four years ago and we’ve sold over 10,000,000 bottles and cans so far.”
“Although we haven’t actively tried to go beyond the UK and Austria, we’re now in 20 countries, simply because people have demanded [it]. So you can nd us in great cafes in Iceland, Malta, Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, France and beyond. So our story and our marketing has brought us great customers, but it has also brought us investment.”
For Karma Cola, the bottom line is, and has always been, making a positive impact on the communities it works with. And that’s where the greatest wins so far have been.
The impact of The Karma Cola Foundation in the Boma and Tiwai regions of Sierra Leone includes:
● The building of a road bridge ensuring the safe transportation of people and supplies
● Sending 74 children to school annually
● Paying the salaries for teachers in two community-run schools
● Building two rice-processing centres to provide food security
● Supporting an educational HIV/AIDS theatre group
● Erecting a meeting-house and guest house to rent out to support eco-tourism
● Funding medical supplies and awareness training during the Ebola epidemic
● Rehabilitating 12 cola forest farms and developing a seed bank for future seasons
● Helping four women start up their own trade business
● Setting up an adult literacy programme
“We’ve also learnt that we’re not a charity. We don’t tell the people benefiting from the Karma Cola Foundation what to do, as they know what they need more than we do. Village elders and chiefs of Sierra Leone democratically decide what to do with the funds.
“We’re making a product in a category that isn’t known for its ethics and we’re turning that paradigm around,” the company says.
“We believe something as frivolous as a fizzy drink can actually be a great experience and a force for good.”