Coconut Bowls is more than a brand – it’s a movement for global sustainability. Although our products gained popularity within Australia, our impact extends much further. It’s incredibly rewarding to feel like we’re a part of something bigger, so we wanted you, our Coco Community, to feel it too. In this series of blog posts, we’ll be taking you behind the scenes of the Coconut Bowls brand, so you can get to know the incredible team that make our mission possible. We’ll introduce you to the communities, people, and processes behind our eco-friendly products. We couldn’t do this without you, so we wanted to show you the positive impact you’re having on making the world a more sustainable place.
PART 1: Building a sustainable movement
From the moment the idea for Coconut Bowls was conceived on a surf trip to Bali, it’s potential for a global impact was enormous. Today, we are still firmly caught up in fulfilling this limitless potential, one sustainable step at a time. Founder Jake McKeon has always envisioned our products as a symbol of environmentally conscious living, and we have been fortunate enough to spread this message throughout Australia, bowl by bowl. But our mission doesn’t end here – as we grow and expand, our Coconut Bowls continue to create ethical jobs, improve economic sustainability, and build invaluable relationships with local communities throughout Vietnam.
After humble beginnings in Bali, we were met on Australian soil by a whirlwind of demand for our innovative and eco-friendly Coconut Bowls. The need to upscale this new project led us to a region in Vietnam famous for high quality coconut oil - a good indication of healthy, thick, and mature shells. Upon further research, we contacted a bamboo workshop, and instantly struck up a relationship with the talented group of artisans working there. This workshop, consisting predominantly of members of the same family as is Vietnamese tradition, are now an integral part of the Coconut Bowls team. The profoundly talented artisans focus on crafting a variety of our products, including wooden cutlery from discarded furniture offcuts and bamboo straws from fast-growing and plentiful bamboo, and are paid over double the Fair Trade standard.
The workshop manager provided us with an expert insight into the Vietnamese coconut industry of which the shells are a bi-product, with billions being burned or discarded as landfill each year. Many of the largest Fair Trade coconut farms are responsible for this waste, yet either work exclusively with large export companies, or use machinery to crush the shells, rendering them unusable.
He also spoke about the existence of smaller, family farms with no use for their discarded shells, which they often had to pay to dispose of. The abundance of coconuts in Vietnam means that these farmers are often some of the poorest in the country, and discovering the opportunity to make a difference in their lives was a massive breakthrough.
With the help of our new friends, we established a sustainable sourcing line. This involves us paying these family-owned farms to reclaim their shells, providing them with an additional stream of income whilst reducing waste. We believe in maintaining a friendly and ethical relationship with these farmers, and pay them based on their valuing of the service they provide us – without negotiation.
All of our products are 100% natural and biodegradable – meaning they don’t disrupt the ecosystem in any way. We like to think of our work as a ‘Life Cycle of Giving’ – the farmers and craftspeople we work with give you your unique Coconut Bowls, and with each purchase, you in turn are supporting them.
As these smaller farms do not export their product, gaining Fair Trade Certification is a difficult and expensive procedure. Despite the challenge this poses to our own Fair Trade Certification status, working with these family-owned farms aligns with our commitment to sustainability. We have formed a mutually beneficial relationship that fulfils our needs and positively impacts the environment, while giving back to the local community – a model that is now at the core of the Coconut Bowls identity.
Our philosophy emphasizes building sustainable relationships with the communities we work with. This involves both a commitment to providing ethical work, and a collaborative sharing of knowledge and resources for the betterment of the planet - and its people. We owe much of our success to our relationships with these locals – not only have they helped us to build a sustainable and ethical operation, their insight and experience has widened the scope of our impact on issues beyond the environment.
In Part 2 of Behind the Brand, we introduce you to the talented team responsible for making each Coconut Bowls product uniquely beautiful.