Review — Dean Cycon: Can Business Truly Promote Social Justice?

11.27.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized



Dean Cycon, J.D. presented a lecture on how business can promote sustainability and social justice at the Martin Institute on November 18, 2014. The audience was about sixty to seventy people, mostly students from classes. The audience was very much interested in Dean Cycon’s lecture, as he was an effective speaker and got his point across very well. The lecture itself was very interesting and his work resembles something that I would like to do in my career. Dean Cycon discovered early on that coffee was an overpriced product that barely pays its growers so that they could live a good life. The growers are mostly marginalized indigenous people of Latin America and Asia. Cycon created a business where the suppliers would be paid premium prices for their coffee, ensuring sustainability and a sufficient salary , which is known as fair trade.

Before Cycon started talking about his work, he started off by telling the college students to set an intentionality and just do it, and never look back. He also said that the purpose of our education was to “add a light to the sum of lights”. He started off his own work by realizing that charity is not a substitute for social change. He saw how much was donated to the marginalized people, but it did not ensure that the people were going to have better lives afterwards. He strived to create a sustainable business that would ensure the economic stability of the coffee growers and sustainability of the land that the coffee was grown on.

In a recent article from Huffington Post:

              “Though he turns a clear profit, Cycon prefers to call himself a “social activist” rather than a businessman. He says a lot              of the fun of receiving the award has been seeing how excited it’s made his suppliers, whom he says he Skypes and emails with often. ‘[The] way we measure our success is in the self-respect of our farmers,’ Cycon told the Telegram & Gazette. ‘They now understand that they are not victims, and that they have a major say in their own destiny.'” (

A cup of coffee represents globalization, as Dean Cycon reiterated throughout his lecture. We are all connected through the economic plateau, and therefore, we need to have a connection with the people that grow the coffee. Our purchases and behaviors affect people around the world. Organizations like Dean’s Beans and Coffee Kids strive to promote social justice while making a profit, which is an ideal business. His businesses strive to create a beneficial ecological and economic impact, while improving the living conditions of the farmers. I would definitely recommend this lecture to a friend, as it was very informative and shed light on a unique perspective of business.

– Mohini Patel


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