People Stories

Brewing Sustainability: Tommy Sekiguchi's Quest for Sustainable Coffee Consumption in Japan

04/24/2024

In a world buzzing with discussions on sustainability, Tommy Sekiguchi stands out with his mission to transform Japan's coffee scene into a beacon of sustainability, challenging consumers to rethink their purchasing habits.

Key Learnings:

  • Starting With a Spark
  • Diving Deep With Learning Labs
  • Innovating Through the Think Coffee Experiment
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Picture of Tommy graduating from Spark

Starting With a Spark

Leveraging his background of over 20 years in the Food & Beverage industry, Tommy Sekiguchi embarked on his sustainable journey in Fall 2023 during Spark, Moon’s intensive educational program that guides entrepreneurs through the process of human-centered innovative business design. His current research at the Center for Global Commons (CGC) of the University of Tokyo fueled his quest to tackle the problem of Japanese consumers’ lack of motivation to buy sustainable food products. He thoroughly examined this issue and developed various solutions and an accompanying business model to see it through. His efforts culminated in a landing page that vividly presented his innovative approach to enhancing the customer experience and boosting interest in sustainable purchases, using coffee shops as a model case.

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Picture of Tommy in the Learning Lab

Diving Deep With Moon Learning Labs

Post-Spark, Tommy delved into the consumer psyche with Moon’s Learning Labs, hands-on, interactive workshops dedicated to the generation and refinement of business, product, or service concepts. He crafted personas such as Sustainers, who are focused on environmental impact; Tasters, who are in pursuit of quality; Trenders, those that are driven by social trends; and Neighbors, the local community members around coffee shops. Using these personas, Tommy and his team, along with Moon Mates, dissected the current customer journey and brainstormed ways to run experiments with it, hoping to change the journey and highlight pathways for sustainable awareness and purchasing.

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Moon’s People Transformation Team visiting think coffee Japan
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Picture of the experiment at think coffee Japan

Innovating Through the “Think Coffee” Experiment

Tommy selected "Think Coffee Japan" in Kanda, Tokyo as the initial site for his experiment. This location is a mere 5-minute walk from Mitsui & Co.’s headquarters, his career stomping grounds. Based on his learnings from the Learning Lab, he and his team designed an engaging sustainable journey for customers, who were presented with two choices upon entering: embark on a sustainable path to learn about coffee and its sustainable practices, or proceed directly to the register. 

The sustainable path that Tommy implemented comprised four distinct steps:

 

1. Feel: Customers were presented with visual stories of the farms on a large display, offering an immersive experience.

2. Meet: This step provided a hands-on experience with the coffee beans, alongside digital displays showing detailed information about the farms and images of the farmers.

3. Think: During this phase, customers received one of five sustainability-related messages, labeled as “Simple,” “Negative,” “Positive,” “Fun,” and “Quiz.” These messages aimed to engage customers in considering various sustainability challenges.

4. Decide: Finally, participants took a survey and decided whether to make a donation or receive 100 yen as a reward for joining the experiment.

 

During the experiment, held from March 8 to 20, Tommy collected 155 responses. Of these, 22 participants chose to receive 100 yen, while 133 opted to donate to farmers in Nicaragua, Colombia, and Ethiopia. He is currently analyzing this data to refine his future experiments and further develop his business model idea. This work is part of his research at the CGC and aims to explore how businesses can encourage more ethical consumption among consumers.

Tommy's ongoing journey is more than an experiment; it's a movement towards embedding sustainability in Japanese food culture and beyond. His work underscores the power of thoughtful innovation in transforming everyday habits into impactful, sustainable actions - one sip at a time!


If you’re interested in our educational Spark program or Learning Lab workshops for your or your organization, check out our website or reach us at hello@mooncreativelab.com

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