hero image
Peter Roberts - Emory University, Goizueta Business School. Atlanta, GA, US

Peter Roberts

Professor of Organization & Management; Academic Director of Specialty Coffee Programs, Business & Society Institute | Emory University, Goizueta Business School







Peter Roberts on Empowering Specialty Coffee to Look Beyond the “C” | Re:co Symposium 2019


What Goes into Your Cup of Coffee?



Peter is Professor of Organization & Management at Emory University and was the founding Academic Director of Social Enterprise @ Goizueta. He also serves as Academic Director of Specialty Coffee Programs for Goizueta's Business & Society Institute.

His research interests relate to how the behavior and performance of organizations evolve over time. Currently, he directs his interests in entrepreneurship and organizational performance toward topics in the field of social enterprise. His current projects focus on social entrepreneurs and accelerators, on microbusiness development, and on the global specialty coffee industry.

For the past several years, he has been cultivating several programs which focus on making markets work for more people, in more places, in more ways. This led to the establishment of the global Entrepreneurship Database Program, the Start:ME accelerator program, and the Transparent Trade Coffee and Grounds for Empowerment programs.

Peter's PhD is from the University of Alberta. Before taking up his current position at Emory University, Peter served on the faculties of Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Australian Graduate School of Management.

Education (3)

University of Alberta: PhD, Organizational Analysis 1996

University of Alberta: MA, Economics 1989

Queen's University: BA, Economics 1988

Areas of Expertise (4)

Micro-Business Development

Specialty Coffee


Social Enterprise

Publications (6)

Are We Accelerating Equity Investment Into Impact-Oriented Ventures

World Development

2020 To assess the effect of acceleration on outside equity investment, we analyze application and follow-up data from a matched sample of 1647 entrepreneurs who applied to 77 impact-oriented accelerators. Our main finding is promising. In the first follow-up year, accelerator program participants attract significantly more outside equity than their rejected counterparts. Further analysis suggests that this positive equity bump is not due to cherry picking obviously promising ventures during selection processes. Moreover, the effect is tied to the number of accelerated months in the follow-up year. Despite these promising observations, we find that the equity investment effect does not extend to ventures working in emerging markets, or to those with women on their founding teams. Thus, the benefits of accelerators for entrepreneurship-led development are not yet reaching the places and people that have the hardest time attracting capital on their own.

view more

The Changing Effectiveness of Local Civic Action: The Critical Nexus of Community and Organization

Administrative Science Quarterly

2018 We examine changes in the effectiveness of local civic action in relation to changes over time in racial diversity and income inequality. Local civic action comprises situations in which community members come together—typically with support from local organizations—to address common issues. The collective orientation of local civic action makes it sensitive to changes in local social conditions. As these changes unfold, local organizations become differentially able to support civic action. Here, our core argument features the process through which community members associate with different local organizations and how mandated versus voluntary association results in distinct responses to increased social and economic heterogeneity. We test this argument using three decades of data describing local campaigns of the annual Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF program. A baseline model shows that within-county increases in racial diversity and income inequality are associated with diminished campaign effectiveness. Subsequent models that separate out campaigns organized by schools, churches, and clubs show that schools are relatively more effective mobilizers as racial diversity and income inequality increase, arguably due to the greater demographic matching that is induced by mandated school participation.

view more

A Comparative Analysis of Corporate and Independent Foundations

Sociological Science

2015 Notwithstanding some visible debates, systematic evidence about the implications of greater corporate involvement in the social sector is sparse. We provide some of this evidence by examining one channel of corporate influence within the nonprofit sector–company sponsorship of philanthropic foundations. Our analysis shows that corporate foundations raise more funds and distribute grants with lower overhead than similar independent (i.e., non-corporate) foundations. However, their grantmaking is also more dispersed and less relational, and they tend to be governed by more ephemeral groups of officers and trustees. These findings suggest that corporate foundations benefit from having access to the resources of the companies that sponsor them but are constrained by their additional market-based motivations. The findings also update and refine what nonprofits might expect from corporate foundations relative to their more traditional independent counterparts.

view more

The Profit Orientation of Microfinance Institutions and Effective Interest Rates

World Development

2013 With the rise in the number of for-profit microfinance institutions (MFIs), commentators are asking whether the sector benefits by MFIs having stronger profit orientations. We address this question by analyzing the relationship between interest rates and adopting the for-profit legal form, appointing private sector representation and traditional banking experience to advisory boards, and participating in more extensive for-profit networks. The results consistently indicate that a stronger for-profit orientation corresponds with higher interest rates for MFI clients. However, this does not contribute to greater profitability and therefore sustainability because the stronger profit orientation is also associated with higher MFI costs.

view more

Corporate reputation and sustained superior financial performance

Strategic Management Journal

2002 Good corporate reputations are critical because of their potential for value creation, but also because their intangible character makes replication by competing firms considerably more difficult. Existing empirical research confirms that there is a positive relationship between reputation and financial performance. This paper complements these findings by showing that firms with relatively good reputations are better able to sustain superior profit outcomes over time. In particular, we undertake an analysis of the relationship between corporate reputation and the dynamics of financial performance using two complementary dynamic models. We also decompose overall reputation into a component that is predicted by previous financial performance, and that which is ‘left over’, and find that each (orthogonal) element supports the persistence of above-average profits over time.

view more

Friendships among Competitors in the Sydney Hotel Industry

American Journal of Sociology

2000 Friendships with competitors can improve the performance of organizations through the mechanisms of enhanced collaboration, mitigated competition, and better information exchange. Moreover, these benefits are best achieved when competing managers are embedded in a cohesive network of friendships (i.e., one with many friendships among competitors), since cohesion facilitates the verification of information culled from the network, eliminates the structural holes faced by customers, and facilitates the normative control of competitors. The first part of this analysis examines the performance implications of the friendship‐network structure within the Sydney hotel industry, with performance being the yield (i.e., revenue per available room) of a given hotel. This shows that friendships with competitors lead to dramatic improvements in hotel yields. Performance is further improved if a manager’s competitors are themselves friends, evidencing the benefit of cohesive friendship networks. The second part of the analysis examines the structure of friendship ties among hotel managers and shows that friendships are more likely between managers who are competitors.

view more

Research Spotlight

In the News (14)

What does the term "ethical coffee" actually mean?

Salon  online


"How many sellers of roasted coffee will ever say, 'This coffee was not purchased on ethical terms?'" says Peter Roberts, a business professor at Emory University and the founder of a pricing-equity initiative called the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide. "If sellers want to brag, they will showcase a label indicating that others (e.g., certifiers) approve. But, how often do we hear, for instance, that fair trade prices are 'not fair?'"

view more

New Report Analyzes COVID-19’s Effect on Specialty-Coffee Purchases

Barista Magazine  online


“To uphold our goal of improving and balancing the information environment related to how specialty coffee is transacted, it is critical that we share these insights with the marketplace of specialty-coffee sellers and buyers so that they, in their own ways, can optimize a challenging situation,” says Chad Trewick of Reciprocafé LLC, who worked with Peter W. Roberts of Transparent Trade Coffee, housed at Emory University, to produce both the report and the three Specialty Coffee Transaction Guides.

view more

'Structural and systemic' issues: Metro Atlanta's wealthy ZIP codes received the most PPP loans

Atlanta Business Chronicle  online


Of the top 10 ZIP codes approved for the most PPP loans, six of them are among Atlanta's wealthiest. The disparities in loan disbursement stem from a deeply rooted problem.

view more

The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Only Make the Price Crisis Worse

Daily Coffee News  online


The COVID-19 pandemic is a genuine global health crisis that deserves all the world’s current attention and sacrifice. However, the rapid emergence of this global crisis does not make the coffee price crisis go away. For many people and businesses, it simply puts it out of focus.

view more

Social Impact Accelerators Drive Revenue Growth Among Just A Small Portion Of Ventures

Forbes  online


Just how well are impact accelerators performing globally? Are they benefiting social enterprises or not? The answer, according to a new book, is they’re helpful in growing ventures’ revenues. But only a small portion of entrepreneurs enrolled in these programs experience growth. And to be successful, accelerators have to adapt their structures to the local entrepreneurial environment, especially in emerging markets.

view more

Another Giant Step for Transparency with the 2018 Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide

Daily Coffee News  online


The team at Emory University-based Transparent Trade Coffee has released the first version of its “Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide,” designed as a price discovery tool for both buyers and sellers of specialty-grade green coffee.

view more

Green Coffee Pricing Transparency Is Critical (And Complicated)

Perfect Daily Grind  online


There are real concerns about the future of specialty coffee. And one of the most pressing is the incredibly low incomes earned by coffee producers. Yet it is one thing to recognize that green specialty coffee prices need to be higher. It is another to determine appropriate prices. Doing so requires greater pricing transparency, something that some specialty roasters are working towards. However, there are several challenges in the way of its widespread adoption. Allow me to discuss them – along with five actions that will make pricing transparency more attractive and feasible for roasters as well as producers.

view more

The Macro Benefits of Microbusinesses

Stanford Social Innovation Review  online


In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the idea of stimulating entrepreneurship in order to expand economic opportunity has become increasingly popular. Although these conversations tend to focus on companies that aspire to become national or global players, we must not overlook the aggregate contributions of microbusinesses—those with fewer than five employees.

view more

Startup Accelerators Have Become More Popular in Emerging Markets — and They’re Working

Harvard Business Review  online


Much like their famed Silicon Valley counterparts, emerging market accelerators aim to boost startups’ potential for raising growth capital. Though the rates of acceleration are similar across countries, potential cultural bias may limit positive effects.

view more

Perks of gourmet coffee boom elude growers

Financial Times  online


Despite consumer demand for specialty or gourmet coffee surging over the past few years, the price that growers receive in most cases have been a fraction of that.

view more

New insights on what makes emerging market entrepreneurship accelerators work

Devex  online


It kind of goes against the notion of value added,” said report co-author Peter Roberts, a professor and the academic director of social enterprise at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. He said it may be a challenge for accelerators to accept that they are still doing their jobs even if they are not filling every minute with programming.

view more

How can coffee become a better tool for development?

Devex  online


With the fair trade movement at a crossroads, coffee roasters and retailers are looking at alternatives to trace the source of their beans — from adopting other certifications or developing programs of their own. Devex takes a look at how the development community can best support the approaches that best serve coffee farmers.

view more

Coffee Disconnect Is Brewing

The Wall Street Journal  


"Consumer demand for better-tasting coffee is splitting the coffee market in two. A growing number of coffee roasters that deal in small farm-produced and best-flavored coffees are leaving the traditional, and more volatile, futures market, which they say has become so disconnected from their business models that it is no longer useful to manage risk.”

Media Appearance Image

view more

Randall Kempner and Peter Roberts: Aren’t Accelerators Great? Maybe…

The Accelerators: Wall Street Journal Blog  online


"We often get asked certain questions about accelerator programs: Do they contribute to revenue growth? Do they help companies attract investment? Do they work as well for developing-world impact entrepreneurs as they do for developed-world tech entrepreneurs? But, unfortunately, the only credible answer we have right now is: 'No one really knows.’”

Media Appearance Image

view more