A crowd of approximately 500 people – faculty, students, staff and members of the local business community – filled the Maddox Grand Atrium Wednesday to hear John Sage, CEO, president and co-founder of Pura Vida Coffee, talk about a “tough-minded and tender-hearted capitalism” that could be “an engine for social change.” Sage described how Pura Vida Coffee – the name means “pure life” – uses the profit-making capacity of capitalism as a ‘funding agent’ to support positive social outcomes.
Pura Vida Coffee is 100 percent owned by a nonprofit, religious organization dedicated to helping at-risk children and families in coffee-growing countries. Pura Vida sells Fair Trade, organic coffee throughout the United States and uses its resources for charitable purposes. The co-founders created a model with the goal to inspire a new generation of consumers and business leaders who believe in and will practice capitalism as an engine for social good.
Every facet of Pura Vida Coffee – its capital structure, governance, employee recruitment, product sourcing, marketing and sales – are designed to achieve social outcomes. Sage says the company demonstrates that the worlds of business and charity can not only co-exist, but also thrive on one another.
Sage’s presentation at Belmont was the inaugural event in the College of Business’ new James M. Medlin Speaker Series in Business Ethics. James Medlin was a highly successful real estate developer who served on Belmont’s Board of Trustees for twelve years. In the business world, he was recognized as a man who stood tall, believing and practicing high moral and ethical standards of conduct in all business relationships.
Sage was introduced by Dr. Todd Lake, Belmont’s vice president for spiritual development. The two were students together at Harvard, where Sage earned his MBA and Lake earned a bachelor’s in German studies.
Sage’s appearance was arranged by the Center for Business Ethics. The James Medlin family had made possible the establishment of the Center with generous gifts to Belmont to be used to support the teaching of ethics to students at the university. Dr. Pat Raines, Dean of the College of Business Administration, has made a strong commitment to enabling the Center to grow and become an effective resource for promoting responsible ethics in businesses and in the professions.
From the beginning, the Center for Business Ethics has focused on developing practical approaches to enable people to deal successfully with the tough ethical issues and decisions they face in the work place. A major goal of the Center is to develop ethical leadership which will strengthen organizations as they seek to build and nurture ethical cultures.
The work of the Center has been greatly strengthened by gifts from The First Tennessee Foundation and by The Dorothy Cate and Thomas F. Frist Foundation. These gifts have been used to help put on conferences on such issues as health care business ethics, sports ethics, and ethics in music business. These gifts have also funded scholarships for students to attend conferences sponsored by the Center.
Click images for larger versions.