Dean's Beans CEO Sees Business as Vehicle for Improving the World
Business leaders need to avoid the tendency to keep their values and their business practices in separate and distinct boxes with no overlap, Dean's Beans founder and CEO Dean Cycon advised students when he spoke at Yale SOM on April 11.
"It's really important to blow those boxes apart now at the stage you're at," Cycon said. "Business is a vehicle for investing our highest values, not just for making money." Cycon started his fair trade, organic coffee company in 1993. From the start, he said, he saw the business as a partnership with the villages in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that supply the coffee beans. The company's mission includes fostering economic and social development in these villages.
Over the years, Dean's Beans has facilitated various initiatives to help villagers improve their access to the marketplace, as well as their medical and educational facilities. Today the company does $5 million in annual sales. Cycon said he has kept it small because he wants to maintain its distinct mission.
The key to improving life in developing nations is empowering local residents to create self-sustaining programs—a point that large NGOs sometimes miss, Cycon said. "Powerful social change happens at the grassroots level by changing people," he explained. "You can't substitute charity for development."
Yale SOM's Net Impact and Food and Wine clubs, the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies' Coalition on Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (CAFÉ), and the Yale Sustainable Food Project sponsored Cycon's talk.