“Maintain your integrity by not cutting corners or taking short cuts. A sustainably focused business doesn’t happen overnight and requires graft and a commitment.”

Mike Murphy – the man behind Kokako coffee, one of the great cafés in Auckland, is a local hero when it comes sustainability. Deirdre Dawson chats to him about his recent trip to Papua New Guinea and involvement in this weekend’s Sustainable Showcase.

Was there a light bulb moment you decided to follow the path of a sustainable citizen or was it a gradual movement?

I think I’ve been working towards it. I studied Social and Coastal Geography at University and also took papers in Anthropology. However as an 18 year old I never really thought of the context of what I was studying and how this could be applied in a commercial way. I was delivering pizzas at 17 and have stayed in food and beverage ever since, I never actually thought I’d use my degree. My interest in sustainability comes from a personal belief that we must look after not only our natural resources but also the people within it.

You recently travelled to PNG on an origin trip, why PNG?

Papua New Guinea is one of the main origins that we source our fairtrade organic coffee from. In April, I joined a contingent from Fairtrade Australia/NZ to PNG. I wanted to validate the core proposition of Fairtrade but more importantly spend time with the coffee growers and their families.

Memorable moments?

Heaps of memorable moments! Highlights would be the amazing people of PNG and their generosity, helping to harvest coffee cherries, intensive four-wheel driving through mud tracks to remote villages and sleeping in local schools at high altitude with no power. The most memorable thing is the poignancy in the simplicity of life. To us, life in the Highlands may look like it has its challenges – and it does.

However to put it in context, coming back to the pressures of running a business made me consider other ways I could add value to communities in PNG.

What’s your involvement with this weekend’s Sustainable Showcase?

We are running a coffee brew bar and espresso bar at the Sustainable City Showcase. We’ll be highlighting specific coffee origins along with our cold brew coffee. It’s a pretty exciting product – the coffee is soft brewed for eight hours in cold filtered water to create a naturally sweet and chocolaty beverage. We will be collaborating with our friends at All Good, Nice Blocks and Cosset to have a really interesting selection of fairtrade and organic treats for visitors to try.

Why should people come along?

People should come along to see how cool a future sustainable city can and will be. The people and companies that will be at the showcase are progressive and represent innovative thinking and ideas around how we should live our lives and do business. Sustainability, for all its connotations, is essentially about using considered, innovative and simple mechanisms for the people and the planet.

Hints for businesses wanting to shine sustainably?

1) Maintain your integrity by not cutting corners or taking short cuts. A sustainably focused business doesn’t happen overnight and requires graft and a commitment.

2) Collaborate and innovate. Seek out like-minded businesses who are doing innovative things in a sustainable way and work together.

About our contributor // While city ambassador Deirdre Dawson is currently working on the person-to-person rental startup Rentaholic, her background includes being an official ambassador for Kohu Road ice cream, teaching English in Japan and Secretary of the K Road Business Association.