Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do the Right Thing

Corporate social responsibility is a key aspect of today's business model. Organizations work to make a difference in the communities in which they operate to make a positive impact. They strive to earn the trust of consumers and stakeholders by participating as an active corporate citizen. Lately, several examples have surfaced of how food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies are giving back through successful CSR campaigns.

One such company is General Mills. According to an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, one in-house volunteer project became so successful, the company turned it into a stand-alone charity called Partners in Food Solutions. The program started in 2009 when a group of the food manufacturer's engineers and food scientists started to package meals and donate them to schools in Malawi. In just three months, the volunteers provided one million meals.

Today, more than 500 employees contribute their time, knowledge, and a passion for helping people to the effort. Recently, Partners in Food Solutions announced partnerships with food and nutrition producers Cargill and DSM to strengthen its goal of helping to feed the people of Africa and developing a strong, sustainable food supply chain throughout the continent.

Over the next five years, Partners in Food Solutions hopes to broaden its network of U.S.-based food companies and expand its effort to other parts of the developing world.

In addition to General Mills, many companies endeavor to use their brand, name, and profits for good. Since 1984, The Coca-Cola Company's philanthropic arm, The Coca-Cola Foundation has partnered with organizations around the world to support initiatives and programs that respond in a meaningful way to community needs and priorities. Recently, the beverage maker announced $2 million in grants to 20 organizations across the country during the second quarter alone that support: education and youth development programs; community; diversity and inclusion; active, healthy living; water stewardship; and community recycling.

Just days earlier, the Foundation awarded grants totaling $1 million to six U.S. colleges and universities to send approximately 160 students to study abroad in China over the next four years. Specifically, the grants support the U.S. State Department's 100,000 Strong Initiative to increase the number and diversify the composition of American students studying in China.

Coca-Cola's biggest competitor, Pepsi, has been giving away millions each month to fund refreshing ideas that change the world, one community at a time. Since the Pepsi Refresh Project started in January 2010, the company has awarded more than $20 million in grants.

In addition to food and beverage CPG companies, retailers are working to better the community as well. Target store grants provide monies to K-12 schools and other non-profit organizations to bring art and cultural experiences to schools, support educations field trips, and provide early childhood reading programs. The company is committed to giving 5 percent of its income – more than $3 million – to communities each week. Moreover, the Target Foundation offers grants to support arts and social services programs and organizations based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area where the company's headquarters are located.

Finally, being environmentally friendly, or "green," is another factor of CSR that companies try to achieve to be a good corporate citizen. Just a few weeks ago, Interbrand announced its 2011 list of Best Global Green Brands. The report focused on planet-focused efforts of the world's most valuable brands. The results comprised this comprehensive report of public perception of environmental sustainability performance and a demonstration of that performance of these brands. In regards to food and beverage CPG manufacturers, the results are as follows:
  • France-based yogurt, bottled water, and baby food maker Danone landed highest on the list at number 14. Recognized for its sustainability initiatives, the company also runs programs to solve clean water-related problems in urban areas and reduce packaging.
  • Coca-Cola came in next at number 27. The company has worked to increase the fuel efficiency of the system's fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles used to deliver products around the world, and plans to create sustainable shelving made from cardboard.
  • Pepsi follows closely behind at number 29 for its attempt to reduce packaging, reformulate its plastic bottles, and increase recycling. To do that, the company has introduced "Dream Machine" recycling centers and outlined policies for reducing environmental impact in its "Performance with Purpose" initiative.
  • Campbell's listed at number 35 for identifying and eliminating more than 9.3 million pounds of packaging materials, including steel, plastic, and paper since 2009. The soup maker has also invested in renewable energy, including an agreement to power its Ohio plant from solar energy, and has committed to sourcing 40 percent of its energy from sustainable sources by 2020.
  • Starbucks rounds out the food and beverage CPG list at number 42. The company has pledged to make significant improvements, including: ensuring 100 percent percent of its cups are reusable or recyclable by 2015; to make all new stores green compliant (LEED certified); to preserve ecosystems around their facilities; and to reduce water consumption by 25 percent by 2015.
What are your thoughts? Tell me what food manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants you feel are making a strong impact in your community and around the world.

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