Next up in our Local Heroes series, where we big up the people, small businesses and neighbourhood spots that make London great, is Peckham-based Old Spike Roastery, the UK’s first speciality coffee roastery to operate as a social enterprise. As well as serving up great brews, Old Spike Roastery uses a portion of its profits to support those experiencing homelessness by offering training and employment.

Formerly an ad man with a decade of experience in the industry, Richard Robinson founded Old Spike Roastery after being inspired by time spent living and working in New York. “I had spent three years drinking amazing coffee and noticed a growing trend for in house roasteries within coffee shops where I was living in Brooklyn,” he says. “When I returned to the UK it took me another couple of years to realise the ambition of opening a coffee roastery and after speaking with a childhood friend (now business partner), we decided to operate it as a social enterprise to help the homeless after a course he was taking at the School for Social Entrepreneurs.”

Old Spike Roastery is ” first and foremost all about amazing, speciality coffee”. The team carefully sources seasonal grade green coffee and works directly with producers to ensure both the quality of the coffee and a good price for the farmers. And then as Richard says, “our point of difference is that we operate as a social enterprise training and employing the homeless with part of our profit (65%) going back to deliver against our social impact goals. We operate out of our roastery and training academy (which we share with sister brand Change Please) where trainees spend two week learning everything there is to know about coffee and being trained as a specialty barista. We then provide onwards employment either in the roastery or at one of our cafe sites.”

The enterprise has been such a success that they had to open a new training and roastery site in 2019 to accommodate the growth, and they’re looking to open more sites in 2021 in order to offer opportunities to even more people. But it’s not just homelessness that Old Spike Roastery is working to change, they’re also looking to help save the planet too. They already source their coffee responsibly, use recyclable or compostable packaging, and run zero carbon emission deliveries wherever possible but they’re stepping it up with a newly launched environmental sustainability campaign. “Our longer term goal is to be carbon neutral,” says Richard. “As part of this journey, partnering with the Eden Reforestation Project to plant a tree for every bag of coffee we sell felt like something that would safeguard the future of coffee and the planet!”

For Richard, this is definitely the way forward, “I think organisations are waking up to the fact that this is the future of businesses and we (as a nation) can effect real social change just by deciding where to spend our money.” And he wants to shout out some of the OGs too, saying “with more and more companies getting involved in this space, I think it’s important that some of the original social enterprises get remembered as leading the way – without companies like the Big Issue and Clarity (who unfortunately have run into some troubles recently) – I don’t think we would be where we are today.”