“In itself, there is sustainability in good design,” said Thomas Perez in a recent interview, the accent of the Danish-born president of BODUM USA adding a poetic flare to the sentiment. And by the majority of international critics, the Swiss-based BODUM’s coffee presses are just that: products of good design.
For many of us, coffee is ritual. Whether it is to sit at a cafe with friends or simply jolt ourselves into consciousness in the morning, there is no doubt that in many of our lives, coffee plays an important if not frequent role. Launching its “Make Taste, Not Waste” campaign earlier this year, the BODUM French Press system has led the industry as one of the “greenest” methods for brewing coffee, according to the company.
And while the company’s greenness may have been an afterthought as opposed to triple bottom line thinking, the BODUM presses follow the thinking that some of the most eco-friendly products aren’t necessarily those that are the latest technological advancements, but are simple, time-tested goods based on quality and value.
Simplicity and authenticity in creating a success.
It is a simple system–one that Perez and BODUM is obviously proud of–that does not require any unnecessary filters, capsules, or brewing steps. You insert hot water and coffee grounds into the press, plug it with the plunger, wait four minutes, plunge the steeped mixture, and–voila!–you have coffee. “We like to do things very simple,” added Perez. “We don’t design with unnecessary gimmicks.”
“At the end of the day, we have to sell our product,” added Perez, comparing the BODUM presses to the $1,000 espresso machines out there. “Our products are simple, cheap, green.” And ranging from $20-40, the simple design of the BODUM presses means there are fewer costs associated with production that will ultimately get transferred to the consumer.
Perez also stressed the notion of authenticity in creating a brand. He expressed an aversion to what he called “fakeness,” something that seemed to flow through the corporate veins. If there are shelves that look like wood in a showroom, it’s pretty certain that it’s actually wood. “We try to do things right the first time,” Perez said. “It’s a very Swiss… European way of thinking.”
CSR: The European versus American way of doing business?
Perez asserted that corporate social responsibility has just been more a part of the DNA in Europe. “Though, that doesn’t mean we are perfect,” he added.
In fact, though he claims that traditionally the US has been much farther behind than Europe in terms of sustainability and CSR (BODUM’s factory in Portugal, for example, utilizes natural heating and cooling designs without any compunction of calling itself green or LEED-inspired), “America has grasped it in a different way than Europe, and is moving much faster than Europe is now,” claimed Perez.
With large name brands and strong marketing, when someone takes up an idea in the US, according to Perez, there is a much stronger push behind it.
“Social responsibility is a global issue today,” said Perez. “It doesn’t matter if you avoid polluting in Mississippi if you ultimately pollute a river in China.” And as BODUM seeks to create partnerships in places like China to source more ethical materials, improve labor conditions, and avoid polluting rivers, it seems the Swiss company is happy to have found a niche in the US as well. A niche where strong pushes can help take you places. A niche to create a quality product that makes good coffee.